Tattling ensures by-the-book campaigns

With just ten days to go before the 12th Saeima elections on October 4, the campaign season is providing plenty of petty politicking incidents, as competing parties try to call each other out on various odd stunts and clever schemes.

On Tuesday the Riga City Zoning Board cited party Unity for deceitfully trying to circumvent a billboard-size limitation with its excessively large (and questionably lurid green-colored) posters, erected by outdoor ad-agency Clear Channel on streets in historic central neighborhoods where city landscape protection authorities have deemed certain scales inappropriate to the kind of pre-election sloganeering so typical of the run for Latvia’s parliament.

“Unfortunately, this time we can’t speak of an inadvertent failure to observe the rules. Using Clear Channel’s billboard ad-stands is a deceitful way of getting around the 2.48meter-limits on pre-election agitation,” said city zoning authority chief Inguss Vircavs. He added that while the zoning board encounters “clever” methods all the time, this case looks more like deliberate altering of facts with intent to circumvent regulations, all the more strange as perpetrated by a ruling political party.

Organizations found to be in violation of the regulations could be fined up to €1000 and ordered to remove the offending billboards.

“The binding rules are there to protect special zones in Riga and the urban environment from aggressive, dominating advertising, especially in the pre-election season, and the zoning board will strictly follow its implementation,” vowed Vircavs. He even went on to wonder why Unity members had been so zealous earlier this spring, when the party objected to any changes to current laws, even citing the Clear Channel boards as prime examples of overly-sized for election campaign posters.

On a less amusing note, the Regional Alliance has had to lodge complaints with law enforcement authorities for the defacement, tearing and burning of its erected billboard posters featuring candidates Mārtiņš Šics and Mārtiņš Bondars.

“I doubt this is just some juvenile hooligans entertaining themselves. I’ve spoken out plainly about many matters, Zolitūde and problems in Latvian medicine. Here’s a greeting from my nemeses and just shows their attitude towards the truth,” Šics was convinced in a statement to news portal Delfi Tuesday.

In a previous case, on Thursday September 18 the Defense ministry raised red flags over the unauthorized wearing of National Armed Forces (NBS) uniforms and insignia by retired veteran candidates on the Harmony social-democratic list. By allowing their uniforms to be seen in posters and brochures promoting their candidacies for the 12th Saeima, both ‘Stop Drugs’ anti-addiction campaign chairman Sandris Bergmanis and Riga Stradins University lecturer Raimonds Rublovskis, both running for Saeima, are failing to observe laws regulating the wearing of armed services uniforms by veterans of the forces.

Moreover, the election law forbids a pre-election political campaign from being based on former military service and the privilege of being allowed to wear a military uniform after retirement from active duty. If the retired veterans, having been warned of their derogations from wardrobe duty, repeatedly cross the dress code they can be denied the right to wear the uniform altogether.

In addition, eyebrows have been raised about the tactics of labor union LABA, headed by Harmony candidate Rihards Gailis, but whose members have been reported to be apparently employed in an array of pre-election campaign-boosting activities, quite possibly under undue pressure from their leader.

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