Skip to main content

Latvia raises its voice and takes a decision

It is not often that a country has the constitutional right to dissolve a Parliament by referendum. It is even rarer that this right is exercised. Thus the decision by the Latvian voters,to dissolve the Latvian Seima, and by a fairly substantial margin is a fairly unique set of circumstances..

But then again Latvia is a fairly unique country.

Latvia came under intense pressure as the Great Recession began- its largest domestic bank went under, and the government budget fell out of control. The result was not chaos but determination. The technocratic government of Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis slashed the budget, rescued the bank with the assistance of the IMF, and set about getting Latvia's economy in order. The result was a recovery nearly as rapid as the initial collapse: a classic V shaped recession.

More impressively still, the Prime Minister was able to be re-elected. Unfortunately that government was forced to rely on a disparate party: the "Greens and Farmers" which was in fact a vehicle for oligarchs, that is to say a group of Latvian businessmen who acquired great wealth in questionable ways and who had, before the recession, become dominant political figures.

In the midst of all this was the then President, Valdis Zatlers, who was widely derided as a light weight figure.

He is not derided now. His last act as President was to initiate the recall referendum. It was an all or nothing gamble, with the target of making a point against corruption in Parliament. It has succeeded perhaps even beyond the expectations of its initiator.

Latvia now faces a new election, but the leading political force is now set to be the Reform Party, founded by President Zatlers only in the past month. In combination with the Prime Minister's own Unity Party, this would be a powerful force to clean up Latvian politics (and indeed its business) and bring Latvia to the same "new Nordic" status now enjoyed by neighbouring Estonia.

There are many difficulties to be overcome, but no one can deny that the Latvian people have spoken up against the political class that has taken the voters for granted and corruptly shared the loot. It was indeed a huge gamble, but with such a big win, perhaps Valdis Zatlers can now do what his predecessors could not and work to create a fair and open politics that works for all of Latvia, not just those with the deepest pockets.


Anonymous said…
"The result was a recovery nearly as rapid as the initial collapse: a classic V shaped recession."

What are the actual growth figures? Having googled for 2 mins it seems that Latvia's gdp contracted by bonkers amounts in 08/09. Didn't manage to grow at all last year and is forecast to grow by about 3% this year. Hardly a rapid recovery...
Cicero said…

In fact, as you see, quite a respectable recovery, especially under the circs.
Anonymous said…
Hardly, gdp growth for Q1 was weaker than the UK and unemployment is over 16%. I wonder what it is like living on the dole in Latvia.

Popular posts from this blog

Cicero ReDux

By Special Request of Baroness Scott and Mark Valladares... Cicero's Songs returns: bigger, longer and uncut.
October 1st marked the half way point of the Estonian Presidency of the European Union.  Perhaps for many people such an anniversary is of passing interest at best.  Yet the conduct of the Estonian Presidency is reinforcing just how forward looking and innovative the most northerly of the Baltic States has become.
Estonia is a country that wants to live in the future, and with its openness and innovation, that future seems a lot closer than almost anywhere else in Europe
It is not that Estonia does not “do” the past: the picturesque cobbled streets of old Tallinn have tourist crowds a-plenty enjoying the mediaeval architecture in an Indian summer of sunshine and blue skies.  The real point is that Estonia refuses to be a prisoner of its past. Lennart Meri, Estonia’s President in the 1990s- who spent years of his childhood in Siberia- once told me that the country had to conc…

The American National nightmare becomes a global nightmare

It is a basic contention of this blog that Donald J Trump is not fit for office.

A crooked real estate developer with a dubious past and highly questionable finances. he has systematically lied his way into financial or other advantage. His personal qualities include vulgarity, sexual assault allegations and fraudulent statements on almost every subject. 

He lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes.

He has, of course, been under criminal investigation practically since before he took the oath of office. The indictment of some of closest advisers is just the beginning. His track record suggests that in due course there is no action he will not take, whether illegal or unconstitutional in order to derail his own inevitable impeachment and the indictments that must surely follow the successful investigation of Robert Mueller into his connections with Russia.

However, all of that is a matter for the American people. 

It is also a matter for the American people that Trump is cheating…

In praise of off-shore tax havens

The last few years has seen a spate of "scandals" about the use of off-shore tax havens. The hacking and subsequent leaking of data about who does and does not hold assets in off-shore jurisdictions has become an old perennial in the British press, rather like the "COLD weather happens in winter and QUITE HOT weather happens in summer", whose alarmist capital letter laced headlines are such a lazy part of contemporary "journalism". 

The increasing sophistication of the hackers, whether Russian-inspired or not, has resulted in a steady trickle of information becoming a torrent. After the relatively filleted release of data in the so-called "Panama Papers", the data release of the "Paradise Papers" is even larger.  Of course, just natural curiosity dictates that the off-shore ownership, or even just "ownership", of assets is of general public interest.  Celebrities, from the Royal family to the cast of Mrs Brown's Boys, are …