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People’s Party, Skele, ride off into the sunset

RIGA - As a way to avoid repaying to the state budget approximately 1 million lats (1.4 million euros) in illegal campaign financing it received, according to some political analysts, People’s Party delegates during a party congress on July 9 voted to liquidate the party, reports news agency LETA.

During the meeting, People’s Party Chairman Andris Skele emphasized that the party’s rightist, national conservative idea still lives, but that the organization has become just a shell that must be discarded. Out of the 308 delegates in attendance, 248 voted to liquidate the party, whilst 26 voted against. The liquidation process of the party could take approximately six months.
The youth organization of the Party at the congress also urged those Saeima members who are likely to be fired from the parliament during the referendum to not run in the election.

The Corruption Prevention Bureau has ordered the People’s Party to transfer to the state budget 1.03 million lats, which the party received and spent illegally on the party’s ‘positivism campaign’ in 2006. The People’s Party has turned to courts, which are expected to rule by the end of the summer whether the penalty is applicable.
Skele, when discussing the motivation to disband the party, claimed that all the attempts of the People’s Party over the past few years went unnoticed, the party’s proposals were discarded by the parliament only because it was the People’s Party that had submitted them. He also stressed that the liquidation of the party had nothing to do with repaying to the state budget the approximately 1 million lats in illegal campaign financing.

With the liquidation of the People’s Party, Skele in a July 11 interview with LNT morning show ‘900 sekundes,’ said that he is also ending his political career.
Skele called the current political situation in Latvia a “political cocktail of leftist pop culture,” and the upcoming Saeima emergency election a “low quality show with a very limited offer” for the voters to choose from. “It will be a populist political sprint,” he said.

The chairman knows all about populist politics. It was his People’s Party, with Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis at the helm during Latvia’s so-called fat years, running an irresponsible government and spending policy, that led to the uncontrolled boom and bust economy that collapsed into depression in 2008 as the global economy came undone.
Commenting on the establishment of a new political party by ex-President Valdis Zatlers, Skele said that Zatlers should not include his surname in the party’s name. He went on to say that Zatlers’ political work could be evaluated in a year’s time, because at this time there is no political party - just a name and a ten-point party program where everyone may find something for himself/herself.

Discussing the work on the 2012 state budget, Skele said that the situation on Europe’s market would be of utmost importance for Latvia. A country that bets everything on exports, forgetting about the development of the domestic market, will be hit very hard if something goes wrong in the eurozone in the next three to four years.
Raising taxes would also be a bad decision as it could prompt a new emigration wave from Latvia, said Skele.
Zatlers will establish his new party - the Zatlers Reform Party - on July 23, the day of the referendum for the dissolution of parliament. During a press conference on July 9, the president also said that his new party will in no way cooperate with parties connected to Latvia’s oligarchs, who run the Union of Greens and Farmers, Latvia’s First Party/Latvia’s Way and the People’s Party.

However, if Harmony Center wishes to cooperate with Zatlers’ party, it will have to acknowledge the fact that Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union, which until now it hasn’t yet done.
Zatlers will position the party as center-right. The president emphasized that Latvian politics must be based on honesty and open dialogue with the public.
The former president hopes to eventually gather 7,000 to 10,000 members in his Reform Party. “The party will be made up of young and professional people who have not been involved in politics previously, but wish to work for the good of the country,” said Zatlers.

The former president did not yet reveal persons who intend to join his party, but added that there are many persons who are currently members of other parties that wish to join him.
Another restructuring on the political scene before the upcoming referendum took place during the 8th congress of the All for Latvia! political party on July 10, as congress delegates voted for a merger with the party’s cooperation partner, For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK). 152 delegates voted for the merger with TB/LNNK, 12 voted against and five abstained. Altogether, 368 All for Latvia! members participated in the party’s congress.

Addressing congress participants before the vote, All for Latvia! leader Raivis Dzintars said that nationalist forces of Latvia must unite and the new party must become the most popular party with the new generation. Dzintars said that All for Latvia! had been very active in the Saeima, and that all obstacles to the merger of All for Latvia! and TB/LNNK had been removed. Dzintars said that these obstacles were certain persons within TB/LNNK, who were no longer members of TB/LNNK. Dzintars urged All for Latvia! members to vote for the merger as it would be in the interest of All for Latvia! and the nation.
Although a majority of congress delegates voted for the merger with TB/LNNK, some of All for Latvia! members objected to the merger, noting that the nation did not support TB/LNNK in the last elections. Some also said that TB/LNNK was not to be trusted.

It is planned that after the merger, the new political entity will keep its current name: All for Latvia!-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK.
It was on May 28, following a highly emotional nationwide address touching on subjects that included wide-ranging corruption in Latvian society and the oppressive and rising control over government in Latvia by the so-called oligarchs - including Skele -  that Zatlers announced that he is resorting to his Constitutional right in Paragraph 48, and moved to dissolve the 10th Saeima. The referendum on Zatlers’ motion to dissolve Saeima will be held on Saturday, July 23.
If the public in the referendum vote to dissolve Saeima, new elections - Saeima emergency elections - will be held in the fall. A simple majority is needed for the referendum to take effect.

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