ONWARD WE GO: Valdis Zatlers is riding a wave of popularity as the country heads towards an historic referendum.
RIGA - About one-third of Latvia’s economically-active residents say they are ready to vote for the former President Valdis Zatlers’ Reform Party (ZRP) if new elections for Saeima were held, show results from a survey by social and media research company TNS Latvia and LNT television, reports news agency LETA. Nine percent of the surveyed said that they would “definitely” vote for Zatlers’ party, while 24 percent said that they would “probably” vote for ZRP.
However, 43 percent of respondents said they would not vote for ZRP in the upcoming Saeima elections this fall: 20 percent would “probably not” vote, while 23 percent would “definitely not’ vote for the former president’s party. Twenty-four percent of the surveyed did not have an opinion in this survey of 750 economically-active residents between the ages of 18 and 55, who were surveyed from July 5 to July 7.
Nonetheless, in a sign of how dissatisfied voters are with the current political climate in which elected officials act as if they are accountable to no one but themselves, economically active residents in the 18-55 age group say they want to see new faces in Zatlers’ pending political party.
Four percent said they want various professionals to be members of the new party; 4 percent said the party should be made up of smart, capable persons who have an opinion, and 4 percent said that the new party should win over members from other parties.
Three percent of respondents said that Zatlers’ Reform Party should be made up of statesmanlike people, and another 3 percent said these should be honest people opposing corruption of any kind.
Asked which personalities they would like to be in the new party, 7 percent named Auditor General Inguna Sudraba; 3 percent - ex-President Vaira Vike-Freiberga; 3 percent – Zatlers; 2 percent - former Prosecutor General Janis Maizitis; and 2 percent - Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs.
Supporters gathered in the party’s office on July 19 to discuss the principles for the Reform Party’s manifesto. Slightly more than 20 people came to take part in the first discussion; Zatlers’ former advisor on strategic planning and analysis, Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica, presided at the meeting.
Zatlers opened the meeting by saying he was pleased that the new office’s work would begin with a discussion on principles for the party’s foundations, as well as a vision for attaining these principles. “We will return to these principles each time we have to make a far-reaching decision,” said Zatlers.
The discussions at the Reform Party office were to continue for three days to formulate ten principles for the manifesto. Each will become a separate chapter, providing for specific and far-sighted solutions for change.
So far, more than 1,000 people from all over Latvia have expressed their wishes to become members of Zatlers’ Reform Party, said party representative Daiga Holma.
Stockholm School of Economics in Riga Associate Professor Vjaceslavs Dombrovskis is one of the persons working on the economic program for ZRP. Dombrovskis confirmed that he had accepted the offer to participate in the work on the party’s economic program, and that he had received the offer from Roberts Kilis.
The economist though did not wish to comment on the party’s platform, but he did say that much of his contribution would be based on what he had previously said publicly. For instance, one suggestion could be to reform the financing model for higher education, where state-funded studies would be abandoned and long-term crediting by the state would be introduced instead, which would be fairer to students and all of society.
Former Saeima Member Klavs OIsteins, who two weeks ago left the Unity political alliance, has announced that he would join the Zatlers Reform Party. “In my short political career, I have come to understand that only the younger generation will be able to carry out serious and long-term change that is necessary for the country. That is why I have answered Valdis Zatlers’ invitation to join his new professional team,” Olsteins said.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Andris Gulans, as well as publicist and former Popular Front leader Dainis Ivans, have declined to join Zatlers’ party, reports Web site Pietiek.com. Gulans made this choice, because otherwise he would have to leave his position as justice, and he is not prepared to do so.
He is currently a justice at the Supreme Court’s Department of Administrative Cases.
Pietiek.com notes that he is the second public figure to decline to join the ex-president’s party, and was considered to fit in well with the Reform Party’s “anti-oligarch” campaign. Former Prosecutor General Janis Maizitis was also asked to join the party, but a few weeks ago he agreed to become national security advisor to President Andris Berzins.
Ivans also said he had decided to turn down Zatlers’ invitation. “Of course, I have to support him, as there is no one else. But politics - no,” said Ivans, adding that he has “other things to do.”
The jockeying for position among political parties, new and old, before the July 23 referendum on whether to disband Saeima continues.
After the establishment of his own party, Zatlers will be Unity’s potential cooperation partner number one, expressed Saeima Speaker Solvita Aboltina (Unity) last week. She also offered the Zatlers Reform Party to join Unity and run under one ticket during the emergency Saeima elections.
At the same time, Aboltina emphasized that Zatlers should begin cooperation with Unity as soon as possible, because there is an impression that Zatlers is establishing his party by himself and does not have a strong team around him.
The Saeima speaker, who is also one of Unity’s leaders, also pointed out that it will be impossible for Zatlers to properly evaluate each person wishing to join his party. “That is why Zatlers should join Unity after he has established his party,” Aboltina emphasized.
The Unity political alliance will meet to merge into one party on Aug. 6. Zatlers’ party’s official founding congress will take place on July 23, possibly at the ‘Sapnu fabrika’ complex in Riga.
It seems many are climbing onto Zatlers bandwagon, one which seems ready to roll on to a strong performance if elections are held this fall.