Garda enters election ring

  • 2002-08-08
  • Jorgen Johansson

Publisher Aivars Garda, best known for organizing school essay contests about forcing Russians and homosexuals to leave Latvia, has announced that he intends to run for Parliament in October.

Garda, who heads the National Front Organization, said he decided to seek office when it became clear that none of Latvia's mainstream politicians were willing to address the issues he holds most dear, such as Russian emigration and strong language laws.

"The Parliament and the president refuse to carry out Latvia's decolonization and we have no other way but to do it ourselves," he said.

Garda represents the extreme right wing of the political spectrum, and his platform includes calling on Russia and Germany to assume responsibility for helping Latvia remove and relocate up to 600,000 ethnic Russians.

"Only those non-citizens who lived here before 1940 can stay," said Lene Alpine, vice chairman of the party. "Latvians who go to Britain are sent back here because they are not wanted, and we want the same. We want the Russians to leave whether they want it or not. We want the government to come up with a program for sending people back to Russia."

Janis Ikstens, a professor of political science at Vidzeme University, said he doubted Garda had a chance at winning a seat in the 100-seat parliament.

"I don't think he's influential at all. He does make it on to the front pages of newspapers from time to time, but I don't think he has many followers," Ikstens said. "There is not enough support for these ideas in Latvia."

As director of the small Riga-based publishing house Vieda, Garda has previously promoted decolonization and discrimination against homosexuals through essay writing campaigns.

"My opinion is that his political activities will show how much support these ideas have in Latvia, and I wish him good luck," said Janis Jurkans, chairman of the left-wing For Human Rights faction that holds 16 seats in the parliament..

Other right-wing parties also downplayed Garda's chances. Guntars Krasts of the nationalist For Fatherland and Freedom, which is junior partner in the current government, said Garda's extreme views ended up tarring the reputation of more mainstream nationalist parties.

"Decolonization is already underway by integration of society through the naturalization process," Krasts said. "This is the way to do it."