I don’t know – I was in China

Politicians worldwide are known for making the wrong decisions at the wrong time and Latvian politicians are no exception. Last Friday whilst the very poorly paid teachers of Latvia were on strike, the members of the Saima awarded themselves a large pay increase. On her return from China ,the Prime Minister, Laimdota Straujuma was interviewed by reporters. Her response, “I don’t know anything about this, I was in China”. It would appear that “I don’t  know” is her stock answer when faced with challenging questions, that is unless she is hungry, when she excuses herself because she needs to go for her lunch. Such is the consternation among the Latvian population that she has now become the butt of many jokes lampooning her on the internet (#StraujumaNezina is currently trending on twitter).

Now I know that finding high quality candidates for the role of Prime Minister in a country with a population of less that 2 million is not an easy task, but in the relatively short period I have  been in Latvia I have met some incredibly talented people. So talented Latvians, stand up and be counted, your country needs you, because the situation is quite frankly embarrassing and Latvia deserves  and needs better leadership.

YourCountryNeedsYou

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32 Responses to I don’t know – I was in China

  1. Question is, with a population of less than 2 million, (a modest city in most of Europe) why they need so many politicians, over a 100 Deputies, I think 6 would be adequate. By the way, have you been following ‘Frics’, that is doing the country a lot of good, think it has saved us a lot of bother today in fact, things are changing here!

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    • aedoxsey says:

      I think you’re right. Very hard to justify. However I can’t see deputies voting for a change that would see some unemployed and loosing their influence.

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    • Are you out of your mind? Although small in terms of population but we are still a country and a nation not a city.. Do you really think it is a good idea to put the entire legislature of a country in the hands of 6 people??? Come six corrupt ones and the entire country can go pear-shaped.. To bribe or hoodwink a 100 is a much more difficult task, even for the most talented Russian lobbyists.

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      • aedoxsey says:

        I agree 6 deputies would be far too few and be liable to totalitarianism. However one has to question if 100 is too many.

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      • Number of members of parliament in the region:
        Finland 200 (population 5.5 million)
        Estonia 101 (population 1.3 million)
        Lithuania 141 (population 3 million)
        Generally democratic countries tend to have a higher number of parliament members than less democratic ones. And also even if we got rid of half of the 100, the saving would be ridiculously minute – a couple of euros per year per citizen. Not worth gambling with democracy if you ask me 😉

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      • aedoxsey says:

        Well researched. I agree with you that the saving is minute and the gamble is probably not worth the risk. However how one measures democracy is very very difficult and largely subjective. Many, many Latvians say to me that to progress in Latvia it is who you know not what you know. That by many measurements is not a sign of a democratic society.

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      • Agree with your for the 100%. Corruption is the biggest and nastiest problem in Latvia and yes that is something why we can’t call ourselves a real democracy. But the progress we’ve made from the nineties is huge. Latvia in the nineties and even early noughties was were Russia is today (just without an all-mighty Tzar). We are still far behind Western democracies, but I feel we are getting there. A generation must change, currently it is too deeply embedded in our society (heritage from the 50 years of Soviet times) that the State is something that should be squeezed out for a maximum of personal gain, that everything can be arranged and rules can be bent if you know the right people. Also very much alive are the ‘post-soviet’ ethics in business, namely, taxes is a burden that should be avoided and that if you share the proceeds with the right people everything will happen. In Western democracies a 15 year old knows that everyone must pay taxes and they wouldn’t even think of offering money to a policeman if they happened to get into some trouble with the law. When we will have the same attitude towards the state and each other, we’ll be ok.. Takes time though..

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      • aedoxsey says:

        I’m confident that time is all you need, it just takes people like yourself to make sure it happens

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      • Thanks 🙂 That’s very kind of you to say so. I have thought about all this quite a lot and have come to a conclusion that there is a very positive side to our huge emigration wave. I think quite a few Latvians will return eventually and those who do will have a clear understanding of how real democracy works in Western Europe, that it can only work if each and everyone lives responsibly and by the book and that law and justice is a fundamental part of it. I’m judging by my own experience – I have lived in London for over five years and that period in my life has changed many of my views diametrically. Part of it was a natural process of growing up but part is definitely the environment. Plus some of those who’ll return won’t be short of a few bob most likely, which might give Latvia a bit of a boost economically.

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  2. klivins says:

    I listened her interviewed in radio today. To me it is clear this trend to discredit Mrs Straujuma comes from just political jealousy, if one may say so.
    If not worse, if this is not a part of broader plan by political technology people from our eastern neighbours…

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    • aedoxsey says:

      You may be correct in your assertions, but the fact remains that as Prime Minister she dhould have been aware of what was happening back in Latvia and had the strength of character to influence the outcome. I would say that her authority has been seriously undermined.

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      • klivins says:

        She is not the best speaker, one must admit. All the rest comes from various compilations of the misinterpreted bits of what she has or hasn’t said.
        If you want some more ridicule, see #kodaritvilciena

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      • aedoxsey says:

        I will get Inta to translate the full interview. I”ll then reassess my thoughts

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      • klivins says:

        Im sorry if my comment was a bit cross. I felt as if someone was judging Cameron based on The Sun

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      • aedoxsey says:

        I just feel the the inability to communicate effectively is a major handicap for any political leader in the information age of today. Leaders need to have more than just intelligence and integrity.

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      • That is very true indeed.. And, realistically, I think that’s why Mrs Straujuma’s days as Prime Minister are numbered unfortunately.. But like I said I have a gut feeling something odd is happening behind the curtains, a dirty game of some sort and that makes me worried.. Hopefully I’m just being slightly paranoid..

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    • I completely agree.. People please stop slagging of our Prime Minister.. Far from being the best speaker, sometimes lacking strength and authority – that’s all true.. She is intelligent though and represents the right values though which is the most important thing in current geopolitical climate..

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      • aedoxsey says:

        The main problem is that in this world of ours if our leaders fail to communicate effectively then confidence is quickly lost. Populations look to their leaders to inspire confidence. When they fail to do this then confidence quickly evaporates. I suspect one of the reasons why Ulmanis was able to seize power in 1935 is that he was a more effective communicator than the incumbent leadership. I was in no way denigrating the integrity and intelligence of your Prime Minister, but I question whether she is the right person in the current times.

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      • I hear what you’re saying and yes we do lack strong leaders that people love and look up to. I still think Mrs Straujuma gets an unfair amount of “bashing” from all sides though.. Something is going on that I’m rather worried about, eg recent activities of the blatant GAZPROM lobbyist – our ex Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis who now works for LATVIJAS GAZE.. Klivins’ version about “wind blowing from our big eastern neighbour” might not be too far from the truth – and that worries me a lot!

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      • aedoxsey says:

        I was listening to a BBC World Sevice programme about Albania the other day. It was talking about how the tentacles of the old Stalinist regime still entwine the higher echelons of Albanian society despite 35 years of democracy. It made me wonder if there are still remnants of the old Soviet regime about still pulling strings. Why have the old KGB files not been made public as they were in Lithuania? Is there something to hide?

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  3. amphet says:

    The problem is unless you have a political sponsor, only those who are malleable to the will of the oligarchs and vested interests get to the top of the PR lists.

    I have worked with many Latvians who are so disgruntled and disappointed with the system but unable to break through the grip of the likes of Slesers and Lemburgs that until that generation goes gaga or dies, it will continue.

    Dombrovskis was potentially a game changer but proved himself to be about as tough as orange juice when Europe came knocking with a grandiose job, the same with Zatlers but he sold out as well.

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    • aedoxsey says:

      I don”t know anything about Latvian political history over the last 24 years. Can you suggest any balanced informative reading

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    • TRex says:

      At the end of the day Latvians are responsible for their voting habits and attitudes around what constitutes good leadership in an EU/NATO member state. Lembergs is an old Soviet era apparatchik who used State capture of assets to make his family the richest in the country. He should actually be in jail and yet enjoys enormous popularity in spite of KNAB’s efforts to haul him in. Ask anyone in Ventspils and far beyond what they think of him and you will hear nothing but praise.

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      • aedoxsey says:

        From my understanding, Lembergs has made Ventspils a nice place to live, so it is understandable that the locals will support him.

        Regarding your comments about voting habits, I think the problem is that the Latvian population does not have a long history of political involvement in society. Therefore it seems they find it difficult to make rational judgments about a politicians character. I was listening to a speech by Martins Bondars. He seemed to me to be the type of politician that would represent Latvia well on the world stage and was saying some very sensible things. Yet for some reason he does not appeal to middle aged Latvian voters who seem to prefer the old dour Soviet style politicians. It may need a new generation of educated voters to really change things.

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      • TRex says:

        @aedoxsey, Not trying to be argumentive (hah!) but I know from talking to Latvians who don’t even live in Ventspils that they feel Lembergs has been good for the city due to his superior “management/businessman” skills but my cynical view is that he’s simply smart enough to spread the money from his criminal activities around and thus cement a support base that drives his political ambitions and protects him (and his family) from prosecution as well. Latvians are just hoping to get a piece of the action.

        Who’s after the current PM if indeed anyone is? Who knows, politics is a filthy business. But Lembergs is a festering sore on the face of Latvian society because lets face it, he’s dirty, It’s just that KNAB is constantly thwarted by a corrupt Seima/judiciary. Do you see how corrosive so called benign characters like Lembergs are on the formation of a civil society?

        How many times and in how many ex-Soviet republics have I heard the “needs a new generation” canard. That generation here in Latvia got tired and left. So what is Latvia left with for voters? Lemberg supporters. Nothing is changing.

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      • Couldn’t agree more with everything TRex says about Lembergs. A monkey could make Ventspils a nice place to live given its unique infrastructure (port, oil pipeline etc.) and the proceedings it generates for the municipality. I rarely get rude in online discussions but this person really makes my blood boil – he is a dirty, corrupt, cynical son of a b… He is the Berlusconi of Latvia and much worse.. And the most tragic thing is he is still supported by a large part of our society (not the brightest one though) and he laughs in the face of justice because they can’t put him where he belongs due to his corrupt influence.. The day he falls and goes inside for a good stretch he deserves I will get the most expensive bottle of champagne I can afford at the time and celebrate!

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  4. A bit of a contradiction – first you disapprove of the pay rise but then you call the talented people.. Talent is expensive and the talented people need to have adequate remuneration otherwise they’ll go elsewhere sooner or later.

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    • aedoxsey says:

      I think you misunderstand me. I’m not saying the pay rise is unjustified. I just think the timing of it was insensitive given that teachers were going on strike the same day. It also seems odd that this pay rise was voted upon when your Prime Minister was away. You are right that talent is expensive, it is just that the whole process seemed to be a PR disaster , coupled with the fact that they also voted to pay themselves their annual bonus at the beginning of the year not the end as is normal. These sorts of decisions when made at the wrong times causes public disquiet.

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  5. It was hilarious. I was so shocked to hear that any politician can say something and still be a Prime Minister. It’s really sad. But I also hope that someone more responsible and someone who is ready stand by his/her work, could be found and ready to stand up.

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  6. One problem as I see it, is that the Old Guard are bringing up the new to be just the same, waiting for the ‘Old Generation’ to go is not going to work (some of the old lot are quite good at what they do). I think that the diaspora and return has the potential to change Latvia and is, but that the old ways are so engrained that it will take a determined effort to change, but there again as I mentioned earlier the TV Programme ‘Bistro Frics’ is having far reaching effects and I hope they do more like it. As for the number of politicians, there are too many, maybe 33, one for each district would be better, though I agree that the more there are the more difficult it becomes to bribe them. I do think they should open the files, and if Lembergs is so bad and others, why bother with Knab, go straight to the EU they have special people to look at things like that and all it would take is someone to ask…… I also think that Latvia has largely squandered it’s opportunities, it has a huge amount of potential and recourses but these as stifled by vested interests for the moment, progress I think will change this even against those vested interests will. I think the future is going to be interesting as those who return are rubbing those that stayed up and this friction will come out in politics.

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    • TRex says:

      I think the EU gives new member countries a lot of leeway in return for their unquestioning support of EU policy. Latvia sacrificed itself on the alter of austerity & so Latvian bank money laundering is overlooked and much more. In return Latvian politicians are brought into Brussels and Stratford as payment for loyalty.

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      • I agree with you there not to mention giving away sugar production! But Latvia needs look to it’s own future and not rely on the EU, it needs to put it’s own house in order and it will become a really great little country.

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