Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Latvia: So it is possible!

Ralitsa Kovacheva, October 14, 2010

The centre-right government of Latvia is likely to get a third term if the initial election results are confirmed. Moreover, the ruling coalition has all chances to win a majority in the Sejm. Where is the news?

During this administration the country fell into a severe recession, one of the worst in the EU, it had to sign a loan agreement worth 7 and a half billion euro with the IMF and the EU, to cut wages by 30 percent against the background of 20 percent unemployment. In the budget for 2010 tax increases were laid down and at the same tame - cutting costs worth 700 million euro.

Why did it happen so that nevertheless Latvian citizens supported the government and entrusted it again? First, the alternative is a center-left party, supported mainly by the Russian minority. Apparently, unlike the Bulgarian voters, Latvians are able to see when that the alternative is simply not a solution. They even haven’t gone out to break shop windows, as the Greeks did, although the country lived through one of its worst winters.

The outcome of the elections in Latvia totally deflates one of the favourite thesis of Bulgarian politicians - that people do not support governments that subject them to hardships. Apparently the problem of citizens is not just the hard times, but the afterwords - the vision, the horizon: well, it's hard now, but where are we going, will it be better then?

Somehow, unlike his Bulgarian colleagues in the past 20 years, Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (only 39 years old and the youngest in the EU) was able to convince his countrymen that there is no easy way out of the recession and that the country has chosen the right way. Not accidentally, investors, international financial institutions and the EU were hoping Dombrovskis to win - they see him as a guarantor that the country would continue to pursue the chosen policy.

And it is a policy of change. Unlike Bulgaria, many countries have realised, including as a result of the crisis, that a period of care-free economic prosperity, based on balloons, has ended forever. If two years ago Bulgarian authorities were able, due to higher investment and economic growth, to pour millions into unreformed sectors to simulate the social welfare and to buy the favour of voters, now it is not just impossible, it is harmful.

The only way our country to have a future at all is finally to start the long delayed reforms, because their price is certainly not higher than the price of social peace, which currently we are all paying. And which looks more and more like a severe depression. And the only way the current rulers to understand whether society is ready to support that choice, is to take the risk.

In Latvia it worked. So it is possible.