Harmony Center ‘complicates’ election

  • 2011-09-07
  • From wire reports

RIGA - The U.S. Embassy in Latvia in 2009 had expressed concern about the increased influence of Harmony Center (SC) and called the possible inclusion of SC in the government “a challenge,” according to a Wikileaks published report to the U.S. State Department from the embassy, reports LETA.

The report states that the influence of left-wing parties, particularly that of the ethnic Russian-represented SC, “is increasing.” Since SC gained the Riga mayoral position, its popularity has increased, and its populist economic proposals seem more attractive during the crisis. It is also based on the inability of the governing coalition to provide a coordinated economic plan. But SC’s connections with Moscow stifle its political prospects, for example, as seen in the 2010 national elections.

SC had expressed readiness to break away from the opposition and work in the government. To achieve that it would be necessary to cooperate with a Latvian party because SC alone cannot gain 50 mandates in the elections. Coalition partner in the Riga City Council, Ainars Slesers’ party LPP/LC, is stated as one of the most probable partners, according to the report.
It also states that Harmony Center’s foreign affairs policy and several activities, for example, its cooperation agreement with the Russian party United Russia, complicates its domestic policy strategy. The agreement raises suspicion among Latvians, whether SC represents the political and business interests of Moscow. The Embassy has no doubt that SC is oriented towards improving political and economic relations with the eastern neighbor. There is also suspicion that SC receives support from the media and possibly also direct financial support from Russia.

The report also points out that SC has several times called to withdraw Latvia’s forces from Afghanistan.
The Embassy does not expect dramatic changes in the policy of Harmony Center, but it hopes that it might influence the party’s stance. However, the Embassy prepares for the real possibility that a Moscow-guided party might participate in the government of a NATO country. The characteristics of Latvian coalitions makes the chance of SC ruling one of the “power” ministries (Defense, Foreign Affaires, Justice, Finance) quite improbable, but any SC participation in the government might cause difficulties, states the report.

Foreign Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis (Unity), taking into account these worries, announced during a press conference on Sept. 5 that the Foreign Ministry, after the 11th Saeima elections, “must still be led by nationally-oriented right-wing political forces.”

Kristovskis believes that Harmony Center, which hopes to win the next elections, has not shown itself as a “mature political force.” The minister is concerned about Harmony Center’s “unclear formulation of Latvia’s totalitarian past.”
Harmony Center will not “adequately express the nation’s interests,” points out Kristovskis.

He also claimed that, during his term in office, he has not made any significant mistakes and, instead, has come up with several valuable initiatives in how to increase the role of the diplomatic service to protect the country’s economic interests, attract foreign investment, and expand on foreign markets.