RIGA - Aivars Lembergs, mayor of Ventspils and reportedly one of the richest and most influential people in the country, announced that he might enter national politics if it were necessary to prevent the threat of a dictatorship.
At a press conference on Feb. 23, the mayor, who previously denied any possibility whatsoever of entering active politics, said that he had since changed his mind. He reminded reporters that he was a member of the Soviet-Latvian legislature in 1990, when the Baltic republic was at a decisive stage in its bid for independence.
Lembergs said he felt that the country was now entering another decisive stage, since, as he sees it, Parliament's biggest faction New Era, headed by outgoing Prime Minister Einars Repse, was undermining the constitution and trying to implement a dictatorship.
The Ventspils mayor, who is reported to be authoritarian in his style of managing the port city, said that he was disturbed by suggestions made by Repse and his supporters to the president urging her to dissolve the current Parliament. He said he was also upset that even after the president had refused to consider any such action Repse's supporters con-
tinued provoking the public to force the president's hand.
"This reminds me of the times in 1991 before the attempted August coup. I did not vote for such a Latvia in 1990, and that is why I now have thoughts of entering [national] politics," Lembergs said.
He added that it was especially painful to see the government crisis continue at a time when Latvia remains unable to implement EU funds due to what he saw as government failures.
He also expressed concern about the recent education reform protests held by ethnic Russian teenagers in Latvia. The mayor said that political forces were intentionally trying to split the public, promoting ethnic conflicts that threaten Latvia's future.
"Instead of promoting dialogue with the public, the main measure used is administrative dictate," he said.
Since Latvia regained independence, Lembergs has won all municipal elections in his hometown by a landslide, winning the favor of Ventspils residents by generously spending the city's budget on public improvement projects and recreation.
However, the Prosecutor General's Office is currently investigating allegations of corruption against Lembergs.