A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Monday, 25 July 2011

Euroscepticism On The Rise in Latvia

Andrius Kubilius, Prime Minister of Lithuania, left.

How unpopular does a government have to be before almost all registed voters - on a turnout of 45% - decide that enough's enough and sack the lot of them? I don't know, but President Valdas Zatlers does. The now-former head of state of the Latvian Republic dismissed the parliament in May, over widespread corruption fears, and accusations that oligarchs - with close personal connections to the legislature's one hundred members. He later lost his re-election bid, although the referendum that his actions led to has just finished, and 94% of voters have decided to take the radical step of dismissing parliament, leading to snap elections in September.

For years, Latvia has been dominated, like so many other European countries, by a contest between two establishment parties; one on the centre-right, one on the centre-left. Vienotība (Unity) and Saskaņas Centrs (Harmony Centre), respectively. Together, they picked up 57.26% of the national vote in the 2010 election: not a monopoly to be trifled with. Yet here, like so many other countries, there are disturbances in the established order of things. That comes in the form of the LNNK - the unfortunately-named For Fatherland and Freedom party.

Previously a party in their own right, the LNNK joined with the (genuinely) far-right All For Latvia! in July, and now the allied parties boast eight seats in parliament. And that looks set to rise. They were formerly competing for fourth place with the Par Labu Latviju! alliance, a centre-right group of parties that are widely seen as the oligarch's wing of Latvian politics, but following the corruption scandal that led to the dismissal of parliament, it seems unlikely that they will prosper at the polls. A lot of their former votes, being on the centre-right of politics, will instead turn to the LNNK.

Unlike Par Labu Latviju!, the LNNK has the ability to enter into debate without being suspected of being a front for rich business interests, something which will help its credibility in the eyes of voters to not end. It is also considerably more radical; the blend of traditional conservatism, liberal conservatism, and nationalism will prove an attractive combination to a variety of people than the reactionary, capitalistic politics of Par Labu Latviju! could ever reach - which, again, have been tainted by the corruption scandal. And part of this radicalism is more staunch Euroscepticism; and, given that Latvia is one of the member states where the EU is most unpopular, that is surely a vote-winner.

LNNK has a long way to go before it can think of taking over even a slice of the government - all the parties combined received seventy-four thousand votes at the last election, and came in fourth overall. The Union of Greens and Farmers (ZUZS) came in third - with one hundred and ninety thousand. But Euroscepticism is once again on the rise in Latvia, and, coupled with the public mistrust of the oligarchs, the conditions could be ripe for the LNNK to emerge as a top contendor in national elections. I shouldn't be too surprised to see them enter the government at some point in the near-future: one more country with 'right-wing populists' in government to add to the map.


I apologise for the lack of blog coverage over the last two days. The European media has been dominated by events unfolding in Norway. On the day that the terrorist attacks occured, Cecilia Malmstrom had made a speech about why Europe needed more immigrants - this was originally what I planned to write about. By the time I completed it it would have been too insensitive to publish it. Normal service has been resumed.

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