Party with no name has high hopes for big win

  • 2001-09-20
  • TBT staff
RIGA - The new party being formed in Latvia by central bank President Einars Repse hopes to win half of all votes cast in the next parliamentary elections, due in little over a year's time. Repse also has his eye on the prime minister's seat and most of the Cabinet for his new political colleagues.

One of Repse's supporters, Aris Auders, head of a spinal surgery center, said Sept. 15 that in order to carry out much of its aims, the would-be party would need to scoop up a majority of seats in the 100-strong Parliament to secure its wishes.

While at least 51 would be ideal, 40 would be sufficient to form a coalition with one of the other major center-right parties, such as Latvia's Way.

However, political experts question Repse's ability to get majority support in the elections, due for October 2002. Analyst Janis Ikstens called Repse's hopes a "fantasy, not even scientific. They will get a maximum of 25 seats, no more."

Political analyst Artis Pabriks said that Latvia's political experience shows that no party, no matter how attractive, can win a majority in the much divided, scandal-ridden Parliament.

Repse is busy collecting money to ensure that success does not elude his party, which still has no name.

While continuing to govern the central bank, he has come under pressure of late. Two ruling coalition parties, Latvia's Way and the People's Party, and all the parliamentary opposition parties, demanded that Repse resign on Sept. 6.

But he has no intention of giving up his substantial salary so soon.

"No other nation in Europe has such a situation - the head of the central bank conducting a political campaign," said the chairwoman of Latvia's Way's parliamentary faction, Kristiana Libane.

"At the moment I can say almost for sure that I will indeed quit as the Bank of Latvia president," Repse responded the same day, but did not hint at a date. His second term as central bank governor runs out in August 2003.

Central bank spokesman Edzus Vejins said that Repse's resignation was not a matter for the next few days or weeks. It would take months, because "he has to finish the work he has started there."

Repse told journalists on Sept. 12 that he had launched several quite important initiatives that had to be seen through, and some international appearances to be made, for example a banking congress in Frankfurt in mid-October.

"As soon as I am through with all these things, I will be able to give serious thought to resigning and devoting myself 100 percent to public activities," said Repse, adding that this could happen in the next few months.

"I don't think it could take as long as next year," Repse said. He suggested his deputy, Ilmars Rimsevics, as a possible replacement. Rimsevics has vast experience and has already proven himself in the office of central bank vice-president.

On Sept. 12, Repse told journalists at his weekly press conference that now was not the time or place to discuss his political plans. But he then went back on this statement by willingly answering questions about his party and its potential members.

Former Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis has expressed his intention to join Repse's party. Apart from him, five new faces were presented by Repse on a live TV show on the evening of Sept. 12.

The five, none of whom has ever been in the public spotlight before, were doctor Aigars Petersons, IT specialist Ivars Belinskis, neurosurgeon Valdis Keris, associate professor at Riga Technical University Karlis Sadurskis, and businessman Janis Reirs.

This group has eclipsed Repse's earlier list of supporters, namely Latvia's Jewish community leader Grigorijs Krupnikovs, spinal surgeon Aris Auders, and businessmen Andris Kreislers and Valdis Lokenbahs.

Around 60 people have so far expressed their will to take part in forming the new party. Under Latvian law, 200 people are needed to found a party.

The party's program is being worked on, and a founding congress could take place in two or three months.

Latvian Prosecutor General Janis Maizitis has ordered a probe into press reports suggesting possible violations of anti-corruption laws by Repse. Maizitis is looking into bank accounts opened to collect donations for funding the would-be party and paying Repse a large, irrevocable, one-off fee he demands to head the party. The money will ensure, he says, his efforts to make the party independent from influence by financial groups.

The amount of the fee has not been disclosed, but it is said to be $1 million. The accounts have so far seen 26,000 lats ($41,750) in donations for Repse's fee and over 7,000 lats for costs of establishing the party.

Repse is one of the most popular politicians in Latvia, having participated in the independence movement around 10 years ago. He has been praised for his successful monetary policies and maintaining a strong national currency.