Party tiffs heat up for election week

Last week’s extra-political sparring between the parties Unity and Harmony escalated Monday with only five days left until Election Day. While Unity and outdoor advertising firm Clear Channel complied Friday with the Harmony-controlled Riga City Council citations against the ruling party’s pre-election billboard stands, Harmony today threatened lawsuits against the Defense Ministry for citing two of its veteran candidates for violating military uniform-wearing regulations that prohibit such dress as part of an election campaign.

On Friday Clear Channel spokeswoman Everita Ušacka told national information agency LETA that the firm objects to the City Council’s Zoning Board ruling to take down the Unity billboards, which were said to exceed the maximum allowable size for such advertising.

“We consider the Zoning Board’s previous decision as an aggressive act, forcing our compliance under extreme time pressure,” Ušacka said, adding that the company will appeal the ruling and seek recompense for losses incurred.

Meanwhile, on Monday Harmony consultant Jurģis Liepnieks and lawyer Jānis Džanuškāns spoke to LSM on behalf of candidates Sandris Bergmanis and Raimonds Rublovskis, whom the Defense Ministry has cited for inappropriate wearing of military uniforms in campaign posters and other materials.

Defense Ministry public affairs department head Kaspars Galkins told LTV news program Panorāma that both retired officers – Captain Bergmanis in the town of Carnikava and Colonel Rublovskis in Ogre have been warned in writing that they must cease using their active duty military uniforms for any reason except the purposes provided by law.

“This creates the impression that these candidates continue to represent the Armed Forces, and that the Armed Forces work with and support a specific political power, which in this case is completely unacceptable. And the law forbids it,” Galkins explained.

However, neither candidate has acknowledged the ministry’s admonishment in the conviction that they have not violated any regulations. According to lawyer Jānis Džanuškāns, they are resolved to take the matter to court.

“These persons want to defend their honor, to have their names cleared of untruthful accusations, in this case the ministry’s public statements, as well as an apology and payment for damages,” the advocate said.

Previous retired military candidates cited for inappropriate wearing of uniform during election campaigns admitted their guilt, rectified and never again repeated the violation. However, the stated recalcitrance of Bergmanis and Rublovskis has the Defense Ministry anxious about its relations with the veterans.

“In our experience there haven’t been any such incidents before, which is causing us a bit of worry,” said ministry spokesman Galkins.

Despite the Defense Ministry’s position on the illegality of the campaign posters, the local governments in Carnikava and Ogre, the precincts where the candidates are running, have stated that they are not planning any extraordinary sessions to rule regarding their take-down.

 

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