Inguna Sudraba enters politics
RIGA - Latvia heads into the final stretch ahead of Parliamentary elections, with less than one month to go before voters go to the polls. They will be casting their ballots to elect 100 members, representing five constituencies, to the 12th Saeima.
The Central Election Commission (CEC) on Aug. 6 approved and registered the final eight lists in preparation for the elections, putting the total at 13 candidate lists.
Political parties Unity, Sovereignty, For Latvia from the Heart, United for Latvia, For Latvia’s Development, Freedom - Free from Fear, Hate and Anger, and Growth are registered, as well as the social-democratic party Harmony Center, the national alliance All for Latvia! - For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK, Greens and Farmers’ Union, Latvian Union of Russians, Alliance of Regions, and New Conservative Party.
However, party engines are not running smoothly for everyone. Of the newly minted ones, Inguna Sudraba’s For Latvia from the Heart, after getting off to a strong start, now seems to be unraveling.
Liene Cipule, advisor to the Latvian Medical Association’s president and formerly one of the leaders of the party for the Vidzeme election district, says it took her a long time to decide to quit the party. “First, there were the dubious donations, second, it was due to an undemocratic decision-making process in the party,” she said.
She said that she had turned to the party’s board on several occasions, urging it to follow democratic procedures; nevertheless, her initiatives were not supported. She also demanded explanations about several candidates, and the possible coalitions should For Latvia from the Heart be elected to parliament; nevertheless, she received no answers.
“The party failed to give me any answers; therefore, I could not take responsibility for its actions. It would be dishonest for me to continue running for Saeima,” Cipule said.
Cipule submitted her resignation on Aug. 12.
Sudraba said she considered Cipule’s move an attempt to discredit the party before the elections, whereas the party’s spokesman Martins Poznaks said no other members were planning to leave the party, stressing that 27 new members had joined the party during the previous few days.
Nonetheless, two more members soon thereafter did abandon the party - Valdis Steins and Jelena Stepule. Steins said that he represents the movement For Government of the People, “whose objective was not necessarily to run in the upcoming parliament election.”
The party was to be “only an instrument to reach the movement’s goal,” but “it turned out that emphasis in the For Latvia from the Heart platform is placed on improving existing bureaucracy.”
Steins ironically now calls the party ‘Sudraba’s Stalemate,’ because each and every proposal submitted by his movement on government by the people, rejuvenating the economy, foreign policy, public safety, education, health care and the new paradigm for culture, “fell into a bottomless pit.”
“Sudraba’s initiative [establishing a party] has already grown into an authoritarian, hard-to-maneuver ship moving in the opposite direction from ‘government by the people,’ whose sails billow with winds of unknown origin,” Steins added.
“Jumping ship” before Steins and Stepule were Margarita Laicane, Aivars Rudzats and Arnis Kaulins.
Several political parties’ election programs promise significant tax changes after the elections.
Harmony offers a tax system where “according to progressive taxation principles, higher taxes will be paid by those who have better opportunities to earn, while lower-income earners will pay lower taxes.” The party also promises to reduce value-added tax rates for several products and services, including medication and public transport.
All for Latvia! - For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK has promised to introduce progressive real estate tax in Latvia. The party also wants to increase the non-taxable income level, raise pensions and reduce food prices.
Greens and Farmers’ Union has promised to develop a stable and predictable tax system for business owners. The party also opposes higher taxes for micro-enterprises.
Likewise, Unity’s program says that tax policy has to help reduce inequality and promises fairer distribution of the tax burden between low and high-income earners, keeping the average tax burden low. It also says that budget revenue can be increased by implementing efficient measures against the shadow economy.
Political parties not represented in the parliament are promising much more drastic tax changes. Latvian Russians’ Union believes that labor taxes must be gradually lowered, whereas companies that create new jobs in Latgale should be offered tax breaks.
Follow the money
Political parties now represented in Saeima and the parties led by ex-ministers Einars Repse and Ainars Slesers and former Auditor General Sudraba have received a total of 1,899,731 euros in donations this year, according to the Corruption Prevention Bureau.
Unity has received the largest amount of donations with 502,481 euros, followed by Greens and Farmers’ Union at 437,398 euros; Harmony at 344,277 euros; Einars Repse’s party For Latvia’s Development with 291,960 euros; Sudraba’s For Latvia from the Heart at 118,318 euros; the national alliance All for Latvia! - For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK with 94,157 euros; Reform Party at 23,785 euros and Slesers’ party United for Latvia with 6,900 euros.
The maximum amount of donations from one person cannot exceed 16,000 euros per year.
Several parties are still financed by the state. Despite the state funding, these parties can also receive donations and collect membership fees.
A total of 1,156 candidates will be running in election.
Out of the candidates, 776 or 67.1 percent are male, while 380 or 32.9 percent are female. 26.3 percent are in the 41 to 50 year age group, while 2.3 percent are in the 70 to 80 year age group. The youngest candidate is 21 years old, while the oldest is 80. The average age is 45. Almost 83 percent of the candidates hold a university degree, while 17.2 percent hold a high school degree.
The election will be held on Oct. 4.