Guessing game surrounds Zatlers’ next move

  • 2011-06-29
  • Staff and wire reports

RIGA - Latvia’s president, Valdis Zatlers, riding high in the polls after his historic decision to recommend holding a referendum to disband Saeima, has said he promises he will not be politically passive after his term in office expires on July 7, reports news agency LETA. However, the president still has not revealed whether he will join an already existing political party or form a new one to run in expected elections in September.

Zatlers told the LNT morning show ‘900 Sekundes’ on June 28 that he will not reveal his decision until July 8, as he currently continues fulfilling his presidential duties. “Everything is possible; I will not be politically passive,” emphasized the president.
Commenting on Unity’s offer to join its ranks, Zatlers pointed out that he has always supported, and will continue support, the alliance’s economic program designed to lead the country out of the crisis. The president also supports separating politics from business; however, the alliance’s position on several other matters remains unclear.

“I was not convinced that Unity is ready to work in the new parliament without the presence of oligarchs,” warned Zatlers.
On June 22, a meeting between Zatlers and Unity ended with no specific decisions made.
Unity’s chairwoman, Solvita Aboltina, said that she believes it was an open and honest meeting, during which the two sides came to the conclusion that they both have an identical view of the country’s development. She emphasized that the dialogue between the two sides must continue after July 7.

If President Zatlers surrounds himself with a strong team, then his political party could achieve good results in the emergency Saeima elections, public policy center Providus political expert Iveta Kazoka says. The political analyst points out that Zatlers’ final address at Saeima on June 16 was a “good one,” which keeps many still guessing about what he intends to do.
In his final address at Saeima as Latvian president, Zatlers said that a national movement for a better, more prosperous and more intelligent Latvia has started, and that he intends to participate in it after his term in office ends. The president pointed out that he has been approached by many people at various events recently, who are optimistic about positive change in the country.

Kazoka explains that Zatlers has four choices of what to do after his term in office. If rumors that former Prosecutor General Janis Maizitis and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Andris Gulans are willing to join Zatlers’ team, he would have a good opportunity to create a new party with strong individuals, which would be able to achieve good results in the elections.
The second option would be for Zatlers to join Unity according to the conditions they have put forward. Kazoka explains that Zatlers risks being “fooled” by Unity, if he does decide to join them. Another option is to join Unity, but for Zatlers to make his own conditions and “kick out the politicians with bad reputations.” The fourth option is for Zatlers to stay out of active politics and publicly support a certain political party.

Even though the June 22 meeting between Zatlers and Unity ended with no specific decisions made, Unity representatives believe that the two sides will be allies, not opponents, in the likely emergency Saeima elections.
Aboltina said that it is very important for the Latvian political system to be stable, and for larger parties to attract younger people as well.

Unity Co-chairman Girts Valdis Kristovskis pointed out that “we will not be opponents, but allies in the elections,” predicting that Unity and Zatlers will work together in the future.
Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity) told ‘Radio 101’ that Unity’s and Zatlers’ vision of the nation’s future “basically coincide,” as both call for development of industry and a transition from stabilization to long-term development. Views also coincide on rule of law and economic issues.

Dombrovskis added that offices, and who could assume them, was not a topic at the meeting.
Politician Janis Jurkans believes that Zatlers will experience difficulties if he forms a new party. “I believe that the formation of a new party will not be an easy task. Zatlers will face significant opposition. At the moment, the atmosphere in the society is different from the political enthusiasm of the nineties,” Jurkans said in an interview with the daily Latvijas Avize.

Jurkans says that even though he would like to see Zatlers succeed, currently there are no signs that would indicate this. “It seems that the president is experiencing difficulties with the team as well. Zatlers once had the opportunity to tell Ivars Godmanis: ‘I will nominate you for premier, but you will form a government of professionals. If the parliament disagrees, I will dissolve it!’ That is how society felt back then, but the president did not do it: he accepted the farmers’ rules,” says Jurkans.
However, he believes that Zatlers definitely has the potential, though the president “seems confused and does not know how to make use of this historic opportunity.”

In the upcoming fight for seats and influence, in what may be a new government in the fall, cosmetics producer Dzintars Chairman Ilja Gercikovs says that members of the business community should form their own political party to defend their interests. Gercikovs says that he would support the party’s formation because the “economy should rule over politics, as opposed to the current situation in Latvia.”

The businessman pointed out that the influence of political decisions is a complicated issue and therefore he declined, or was unable, to make any specific comments or suggestions.
Business certainly feels its interests have been neglected. More than half, or 52 percent, of surveyed businesspeople believe that the economic environment in Latvia has deteriorated due to changes in tax policy and consumer activity, according to SEB Bank’s report on the business environment. SEB Bank board member Ieva Tetere said that 17 percent of businessmen pointed out that the economic situation in the country has improved, whilst 28 percent believe that it remained unchanged.
Compared to the autumn of 2010, the positive assessment has dropped by 6 percent. At the same time, members of the business community assess their companies’ achievements as higher than the business environment.

The report shows that business is concerned about employee wages and lack of qualified labor caused by emigration.
Aboltina has suggested that Zatlers joining her party could bring fresh ideas and energize and inspire the alliance. “When the president proposed the dissolution of Saeima, the people realized that change is possible,” she added.
On July 23, the referendum called by Zatlers on the dissolution of parliament will be held. This may be just the “kick” in the pants that Latvians need to give Saeima, members who are elected officials, to get them to start working for the country’s best interests, instead of their own.