|REVOLT IS AN INFECTIOUS DISEASE
MOSCOW, (Janis Urbanovic, member of the Latvian Parliament and the RIA
Novosti Expert Council)
The main bids for the forthcoming elections to the Latvian Parliament have
been made. Political ideas have been made public, compromising materials
have been presented, and money has been spent. We will see the result very
soon, when the people come to the ballot stations.
What I would like to focus on is not so much the voters’ attitudes, but
the narrow but highly influential group of businessmen and intellectuals,
who have always played the decisive role in forming coalitions and
schemes, and a country’s future.
Such groups have existed always and in all countries, including despotic,
totalitarian and democratic ones. Unfortunately, this group sometimes
underestimates the problems and dangers that face their people and
country, and the Latvian elite is no exception. It is unwilling to part
with the consensus that developed in the mid-1990s and has brought Latvia
to the European Union and NATO and spurred on the development of a viable
class of bourgeoisie by encouraging rapid privatization and
Political parties, the press, the parliament, courts and the state
machinery worked very hard on attaining these goals and proving their
efficiency. This is why many people today think that this situation will
persist and Latvia’s system is historically stable and will always be
But the world has changed since the 1990s, and the international community
has moved to the planes it had never seen before.
No “color revolution” in the former Soviet states produced the desired
results, but showed that a “controlled revolt” is possible and easy,
and that it is as catching as a flu. I firmly believe that the current
events in Hungary have been provoked by the same virus, which has broken
free like a genie from a bottle, and is turning “color revolutions”
into vandal revolts. Its first results are highly unpleasant and have hit
the most painful spots – the country’s credit rating and investor
Which country will be next? Where to expect the next outbreak of the
disease? In Moldova, Romania or Poland? Or maybe in Latvia? Will the
Security Police and the Constitution Protection Bureau save us? For it
will not be a minor action by Limonov’s National Bolsheviks, or a
pensioners’ protest picket.
Don’t tell me that this cannot happen in Latvia. It is possible. Opinion
polls register public dissatisfaction with many things, ranging from the
speed of integration into the EU, to the housing problem. The main trouble
is that Latvian political system does not have a vent for public
discontent and is doing nothing to root out its causes.
The Latvian policy today is a well-orchestrated ballet where all positions
and partners have been assigned long ago. Such performances may look nice,
but they have nothing in common with real life. As a result, some people
have left the country in search of better life, and others are becoming
easy prey for demagogues and populists. I am referring to the seemingly
respectable political association New Era, a conservative anti-corruption
The victory of its leader, Einars Repse, in the parliamentary elections
was an alarming sign, prompting conclusions comparable to the analysis of
the Hungarian events.
The administration should at least feign democracy and the people’s
involvement in running the country, or political apathy and latent
discontent will rapidly erupt in a social explosion. This would be
disastrous for all sides, but primarily for business. I doubt that the
“captains” of the Latvian economy want to be rich and successful in a
poor country. They want to live in a prosperous state, and therefore
should overhaul their approaches to the domestic policy and formulate a
new political goal.
A policy should be stable, but not unyielding. A policy can and should be
diversified, which implies the turnover of politicians and ideas. Many
members of the Latvian parliament hope to keep their seats for life, which
is why they bury progressive innovation ideas. These “stagnation
guards” have their own vision of a new coalition and cabinet.
Big business is relying too heavily on the “protective buffer” group
of obedient and controllable politicians. I am not advocating opening the
door into politics to everyone, or political purges. But I think that the
time for change has come. We must let fresh air into the parliament, the
cabinet, and local governments. It’s time to pension off those who can
no longer produce good results, and to revive the Latvians’ belief in
their leaders, their parliament and their government.
In fact, the issue concerns the demise or survival of Latvian democracy.
We must let enterprise and initiative take a befitting place not only in
business but also in managing society. -0-