Honest Joe plans new party

  • 2001-08-23
  • Rita Bubina
RIGA - The president of Latvia's Central Bank and one of the most popular public figures in the country, Einars Repse, announced his intention to form a new center-right political party on Aug. 21.

Repse's official announcement came two weeks after uncertain statements about such a possibility, during which he sharply criticized the current government and ruling parties. "The cowardly behavior of the government and corruption has reached catastrophic levels," Repse said on Aug. 8.

This statement was kneaded back and forth by the ruling coalition until two weeks later they found real ground for a counterattack. Repse's scheme for financing his future party announced on Aug. 21 came under attack by all major political forces.

Center-right political parties Latvia's Way and the People's Party both criticized Repse's party funding proposals calling them "unethical" and "perplexing."

As a way of retaining complete financial, creative and political independence, Repse offered to receive a one-time irreversible lump sum from sponsors to finance his future work for the party and no additional funds later on.

Repse also named a few potential members of his party, like Latvia's Jewish community leader Grigorijs Krupnikovs, owner and boss of the construction firm Velve, Andris Kreislers, and chief of the IT company Dati, Valdis Lokenbahs. He hinted that the new party may also include former Riga Mayor Andris Argalis and former President Guntis Ulmanis.

Nevertheless, the new party will put an emphasis on new people without prior political experience, he stressed.

"Our task is not to stomp on existing parties and offer the same old crabs in a different bag," Repse said, according to the Baltic News Service.

For years, Repse has had a solid popularity rating, and many people associate him with the stability of the national currency, the lat. In the late 1980s Repse played an active role in the National Awakening movement.

In 1991, he was appointed the Bank of Latvia's president by the country's Parliament and ceased all his political activities. In 1996, Repse was reconfirmed to the position. His term in office expires in 2003.

"It's difficult to judge the voters' support for the new party," political analyst Artis Pabriks told The Baltic Times. "The party may attract 20 percent of voters who vote inconsistently, and then a great number of nationalist-oriented voters plus quite a few entrepreneurs."

If support is not strong enough, the new party would have to build a coalition with one of the present parties - which currently do not show much progress in carrying out anti-corruption reforms.

"In fact, the parties have already forced each other out by becoming alienated from society. This is one of their greatest problems," Pabriks said.

"I don't believe that any of the leading parties will get the number of seats they have now. Neither Latvia's Way nor the Social Democrats will manage to keep their positions. The Social Democrats have made some mistakes and this means that disappointed voters may switch to this new promising political force," said Pabriks. "The parties with the support of the ethnic minorities will probably lose the smallest number of seats."

"The current political stage is crowded. There are representatives of right-wing parties, left-wing, centrists, etc. The main thing is that the founders stress the party will be more honest and more efficient."