Voters oblivious before election

  • 2011-09-07
  • Staff and wire reports

RIGA - Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS) leader Augusts Brigmanis says he is almost confident that Harmony Center will win the 11th Saeima elections and get the chance to form the next government, reports LETA. Speaking on Latvian State Radio on Sept. 5, Brigmanis said that it is impossible to ignore the large number of people who will vote for Harmony Center.
Brigmanis went on to say that it is still too early to talk about the possible ruling coalition. The election’s results will be decisive, however, ZZS, as a center-to-right party, believes that its closest cooperation partner is Unity, he notes.

“We could also cooperate with All for Latvia-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK. However, Zatlers’ Reform Party has announced that it does not want to work together with us, and we do not want to impose ourselves,” said Brigmanis.
Harmony Center hopes to win the upcoming Saeima elections, winning the same number of, or slightly more, seats than now, said the party’s leader, Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs. Usakovs believes that his party could have 29 seats in the next parliament, or, in the best case scenario, 31 or 32 seats, in the 100-seat Saeima.

“It seems that we will win the elections,” said the politician and added that the other parties’ results will also be important.
Usakovs claimed that Harmony Center is open for coalition talks with all parties that will be elected to the 11th Saeima, with the exception of VL-TB/LNNK.

Predictions now range from ZRP taking 5 to 25 percent of the vote. Unity could fare slightly worse than Harmony Center, or maybe it will barely take over 10 percent of the vote. It is also unclear whether the Union of Greens and Farmers will remain at the current level or drop to eight percent. It would be pointless to talk about potential possibilities and coalitions in the current situation, explained Usakovs.

Usakovs said that an optimal coalition should consist of two-thirds of MPs.
Reviewing campaign trail rhetoric, Harmony Center has announced that if it comes to power, no tax rates will be raised or lowered in the next three years. “Whatever we do, we will not touch the tax rates. One may argue if the current tax rates are good or not, but we do need stability. It is clear that tax rates cannot be increased, and it is clear that reducing the tax rates would mean too heavy a burden for the budget,” said Usakovs.

As for the planned measures to promote economic development, Usakovs mentioned “tax holidays” for start-ups, adding that tax holidays should also be introduced for foreign investments, on condition that these investments go into such sectors as transit, tourism or production with high added value.

If political parties do not stop making badly thought-out and populist promises during the pre-election period, the amount by which the 2012 state budget must be consolidated may go well over the currently-planned 100 million lats (142.8 million euros), Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity) said in an interview with LNT television on Aug. 31. Furthermore, if the state has to invest money into bailing out the national airline airBaltic, this will also have an effect on the amount by which the 2012 budget must be consolidated. Even the additional 6.1 million lats for health care that the government approved last week will also change the consolidation amount.

A second wave of the economic crisis may not reach Latvia, but if it does, Latvia will be much better prepared than it was at the beginning of 2008: the state budget is now balanced, there is no property and construction bubble, and the economy is not overheated.
Dombrovskis also said that a three-year moratorium on tax rises must be introduced, which would apply to all taxes. Changes to property taxes are to start from 2013, when local governments will be given more rights to decide the amount of tax in their respective municipalities.

The number of employees in the public sector now is the lowest in twelve years, and the same amount of work is now done with smaller staff at ministries and government agencies, said Dombrovskis.
As the Sept. 17 parliamentary election draws closer, voters don’t seem to be paying attention to what the politicians are promising. Only 3 percent of Latvia’s economically active residents have bothered to acquaint themselves with the political parties’ 4,000-character election programs, according to a survey carried out by the market, social and media research agency TNS Latvia in cooperation with LNT television at the end of August. One-fifth have seen the parties’ candidates for the 11th Saeima elections, 77 percent have not done so, and 3 percent said they had no opinion.
The survey was carried out from Aug. 23 to Aug. 25; 900 economically active residents aged 18 to 55 were interviewed altogether.

Former President Valdis Zatlers took the much-needed and historic step to suggest to the people, in May, that they vote to disband an unruly Saeima, one that was increasingly coming under the control of powerful, corrupt and vested interests in the country. The voters delivered a resounding vote in a July referendum when they agreed to throw the politicians out of office. The September vote will show whether the citizens have the stamina to carry the ball across the goal line and finish the game.