Monday, October 6, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Didn’t Win Latvian Vote But Can Learn Some Lessons from It, Russian Commentator Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, October 6 – Despite upbeat comments by a number of Russian media outlets yesterday and today that “’ours’ (having in mind ‘Soglasiye’), won the [Latvian parliamentary] elections,” Igor Pavlovsky says, “the facts are that [the members of that party] are not ‘ours’ and they did not win.”


            According to the Regnum news agency commentator, Soglasiye “cannot by any measure be considered a pro-Russian party, neither on the basis of its slogans or its real actions.” Instead, it is “a left-center party” that has won the votes of Russian speakers in Latvia “as a result of a number of historical and economic causes” (


            Moreover, he continues, the voters did not give that party a simple majority in the elections and the members of the party who were elected “will not form” part of the coalition government, which will continue, barring the totally unexpected, to consist of other Latvian parties, including Unity, SZK, and Visu Latvija!-TB/DNNL.”


            As a result, Pavlovsky says, Latvia will remain “a typical ethnocratic regime” in which “anything that goes beyond the framework of ‘Latvianness’ cannot be represented in real as distinct from decorative politics.” That is something that some in the Russian capital have yet to learn, he suggests.


            But there are three important lessons from the Latvian vote that Moscow should take into account in the future.  First, he notes, Soglasiye, although it garnered only a little more than 23 percent of the Latvian electorate as a whole, it won “more than 42 percent in Latgale,” the predominantly Russian and Russian-speaking region in the southeast.


            Second, because of what is going on in Ukraine, the domestic issues which had benefited Soglasiye in the past were pushed into the background. They simply “were not discussed,” with the entire race being filled up with discussions of the Russian threat.”


            And third,  Pavlovsky continues, “the failure of the Russian Union of Latvia and the success of Visu Latvija!-TB/DNNL showed that half-concealed and delicate national rhetoric does not work but rather has exactly the opposite effect.”


            The Regnum commentator does not suggest what lessons Latvia and its friends should draw from the outcome of the elections, but each of the ones he says Moscow should pay attention to suggest some:  The first suggests that Russia will focus on Latgale, viewing it as the weak link in Latvia just as Moscow does the southeast in the case of Ukraine.


            Second, if Moscow wants to have its supporters come to power in a neighboring state, it will have to make sure that it does not reduce their chances based on domestic issues by engaging in foreign policy actions that allow their opponents to make any vote a referendum on “the Russian threat.”


            And third, Pavlovsky’s third lesson suggests that he believes Moscow should back more openly pro-Russian parties in neighboring countries, parties that make being friendly with the Russian Federation a core part of their agenda rather than only a derivative one.


            Obviously, these three lessons do not all point in the same direction, but it is likely that Moscow’s future approach in Latvia and in the Baltic region more generally will reflect some combination of them. They thus should trigger a serious discussion among the governments and attentive publics in these countries.

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