Border town mayor ‘defects’ from Harmony

One of Harmony’s leading local government leaders, long-standing Zilupe district mayor Oļegs Agafonovs announced Monday that he was renouncing his party membership in favor of an as-yet unspecified ruling political group, however hinting at Unity.

The unexpected desertion of a key Harmony board member comes just weeks before the 12th Saeima elections in which the party seems to be clearly in the lead.

“As an elected official, a patriot to the state and working for the good of my voters, for the sake of development of the district, for people to live better… Much more can be achieved for the district by being not in the opposition, but rather in one of the ruling parties,” the Zilupe mayor told LTV evening news program Panorāma Monday.

He went on to explain that as a ruling coalition party politician he could do more for the district, because small districts are totally dependent upon state financing and therefore also from the support of the ruling parties.

Asked if that meant he was joining Unity, Agafonovs responded that “this could be one of the most realistic versions.”

According to unofficial sources, his abandonment of the social-democratic and pro-Russian leaning party his political fortunes have been tied to since his election to the local government’s top post in 2005 has something to do with keeping a key district school from being closed.

In last year’s local government elections Agafonovs won with a convincing majority.

Law enforcement authorities have also been keenly interested in Agafonovs’ extra-political activities, however, recalling a scandalous 2007 case involving a contraband smuggling ring at the Terehova border crossing in which Agafonovs was implicated for bribery and criminal abuse of office. He openly apologized to his constituency after being released on bail. The case was later closed by the prosecuting department.

Agafonovs also denied that Zilupe’s recent €300,000 roads-improvement allocation from the Transport Ministry (headed by Unity minister Anrijs Matīss) was anything more than the normal procurement of necessary funding for ongoing critical infrastructure projects.

In this far-eastern border area of Latgale province, Harmony also holds the local government leadership (mayor’s or district council chair’s office) in Viļāni and Rēzekne.

Harmony party chairman Nils Ušakovs is mayor of Riga.

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Politics
Politics