Guide to 2014 Saeima elections: The Parties (Part 3)

Take note – story published 9 years and 7 months ago

The third and final part of our series outlining everything you always wanted to know about Latvia's political parties (but were afraid to ask) takes us through the last three groupings on the October 4 ballot papers.

Ballot no: 11
Name: Saskana (Harmony)
Slogan: 'Nils Usakovs'
Symbol: Thin man trapped inside oil pipe
Figurehead: Nils Usakovs

First line of program: "Social justice and public support for economic development."

Rundown: The Party Formerly Known As 'Harmony Center' and occasionally 'Concord Center' - which sounded a bit too much like Buddhist cults - has had a makeover and is now the far catchier 'Harmony'. While critics argue the change is purely cosmetic, the party is making a concerted effort to brand itself as a 'Social Democratic' force, which makes perfect sense when nearly everyone else is describing themselves as center or right-of-center.

While the change may not seem large, it is significant as a way of reaching out to left-leaning Latvians to prevent Saskanas' usual classification as a "Russian party."

Undoubtedly it will retain a lot of its core Russian support but with the outright Russian nationalists of LKR and the unknown quantity of No Sirds Latvijai threatening to absorb some Russian votes, while a merger of the Reform and Unity parties creates a large centrist bloc, Saskana faces the likelihood it will drop from first to second place in the elections and is likely to remain in lonely opposition.

The party's main asset is Riga mayor Nils Usakovs, but what he provides in terms of a modern image is potentially undermined by the party's controversial cooperation agreement with Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.

The 'social democrat' claim isn't helped by the fact that 80 percent of Saskana candidates are men. 

Chance of winning seats: Dead cert - but first or second?


Ballot no: 12
Name: Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība (Greens and Farmers Union)
Slogan: "Owners of our own land"
Symbol: Corn which is not quite ripe
Figurehead: Aivars Lembergs

First line of program: "We would like Latvia to be a prosperous, green country where people can be proud and everyone can live, work, raise a family and spend a peaceful retirement."

Rundown: Probably the only 'green' party in the world to be bankrolled by money from the oil industry via the port of Ventspils, ZZS is an unashamedly populist offering that can always rely on a core of support from farmers and pensioners.

In a fairly fractured political landscape it's usually the ZZS that ends up holding the balance of power, making them a bit more important than their number of seats would suggest.

Despite assurances to the contrary perennial lord of Ventspils and millionaire businessman Aivars Lembergs is likely to be the party's prime ministerial candidate - a source of some amazement to foreign observers given the fact he is still fighting a long-running trial on charges of massive graft and corruption.

His opinion that NATO partners are "occupiers" whose presence on Latvian soil is only welcomed by prostitutes is apparently not shared by anyone else in ZZS (including defense minister Raimonds Vejonis). The party program actually contains a pledge to "integrate into the NATO military-industrial complex" but having beliefs fundamentally divergent from everyone else's is clearly no bar to leading the party.

Chance of winning seats: They'll be there in the mix


Ballot no: 13
Name: No sirds Latvijai (Latvia from the heart)
Slogan: "Time for a change"
Symbol: Hand performing cardiac massage
Figurehead: Inguna Sudraba

First line of program: "Latvia from the heart's goal: Latvia - a secure, independent, democratic and united welfare state."

Rundown: 'Latvia from the heart' sounds like it should have been a Tina Turner album from the early 1990s, but in fact it is former State Auditor Inguna Sudraba who is hoping to be 'Simply the best' come October 4.

Sudraba was a respected auditor for exposing the tricks of oligarchs, then spent a couple of years denying she would forge a political career, prior to this attempt to forge a political career.

The start wasn't promising: the day she announced she would become a politician happened to be the day prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis resigned and on hearing the news, Sudraba promptly fainted in mid speech. Provided being prime minister doesn't involve ever hearing any bad news, this need not be a handicap.

Her squeaky clean image was tarnished when she was filmed having lunch with one of the very oligarchs she used to harass and questions concerning the precise source of her party's funding have never really been satisfactorily answered - in fact, exactly the sort of thing she used to point out as auditor.

Nevertheless, polls suggest she could break into Saeima at the first attempt. If so, let's hope the shock isn't too much for her.

Chance of winning seats: Probable

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