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 de-nationalization.
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 effective.
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 trust.
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 party.
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-