With two weeks to go before the Latvian general election there’s something of a hiatus in campaigning. Either the parties have run out of ideas or – more likely – they are saving themelves for a big push in the last week.
The expected big scandal was supposed to be the publication of Lato Lapsa’s book about Ainars Slesers, but in the end it was a bit of a dud. There wasn’t much dirt about Slesers himself other than some accusations of tax dodges involving frozen fish which let’s face it, is hardly Watergate or even ‘Jurmalgeit’.
There were however plenty of revelations concerning Slesers’ criminally insane father. Whatever one thinks of ‘The Bulldozer’ one can hardly blame the sins of the father on his son. Indeed it was hard not to feel some sympathy for Slesers when he burst into tears while talking about his relationship with his father – though it would have been stronger and more sincere had he not then wheeled out Guntis Ulmanis at his press conference to blather on about how the press had “crossed the black line.”
In fact it ws not Lato Lapsa who crossed the line, it was persons unknown who subsequently threatened his sister and her young children. Lapsa has now left the country until after the elections. One has to wonder what sort of person would sink so low as to threaten children. Maybe the sort of people who would feel no compulsion defrauding a children’s hospital?
There is of course no suggestion that Slesers or Aivars Lembergs (whom Lapsa was embarrassing with more substantial allegations via a now defunct website) were directly involved in the threats. But that clearly someone on “their” side of the black line thinks there is political justification for such actions shows that while everyone involved in these elections is trying to win, some people clearly feel they cannot afford to lose at any price.
Back to the elections themselves, the most recent poll gives a good indication of why this will be such a crucial vote. In the 100 seat parliament it predicts: Vienotiba 27, Saskanas Centrs 25, ZZS 18, TB/LNNK 14, PLL 10, PCTVL 6.
That conjures up some intriguing possibilities:
Vienotiba + TB/LNNK = 41 seats
SC + PLL + PCTVL = 41 seats
…which leaves ZZS the kingmaker with its 18 seats. Which way would it jump?
But perhaps even more interesting is this hypothesis:
Vienotiba + Saskanas Centrs = 52 seats
…that would give the two largest parties a very slim majority and the chance to form government mainly free of oligarchy (PLL + ZZS = 28). This scenario would require Vienotiba to snub the Latvian nationalists of TB/LNNK and Saskanas Centrs to snub the Russian nationalists of PCTVL, but it would be very easy to predict which way either group would vote on a given subject and formulate policy accordingly.
It would of course require concessions from both sides – maybe something along the lines of a referendum on the language law in the tenure of the next parliament (i.e. after 2015) in return for an agreement that both parties back the Euro accession plan. Both targets are distant enough not to be pressing concerns.
Most exciting of all, this would be a completely new start for Latvia rather than a return to the unsatisfactory status quo. It would be interesting to see how much time the likes of Skele and Slesers would be prepared to spend in parliament on the sidelines.