VOTE, VOTE, OTHERWISE WE'RE LOST. Why the election of 2018 matters.

I can't remember my first election. For whom I gave my vote to and where did it happen, and it somewhat scares me. My first big national decision for the sake of others taking care of my welfare - and it hasn't been important enough to even recall it.
Next week we are facing probably the most intense voting round during the whole election theatre in present day Latvia. Populist agenda, "Kremlins", progressives, the new conservatives, and the old farmers all in one bowl. Even if it's not your first, this is going to be an election to remember.
donald trump, election 2018 latvia, capital r blog, donald trump cartoon
It seems now that everybody, who isn't too lazy, has been suddenly accredited enough to publish their provisional column charts on how people will give their vote. For now I have seen at least 5 different monthly results from at least 5 different agencies/sources/surveys, and, at some point, graphs seem to change according to some secret interest. Yet, as many call it, the "axis of evil" or 1) populist socio-democratic "Saskaņa (S)" Kremlin sympathizers (might collect 14 - 23 % of votes), 2) fake old green "Zaļie zemnieki (ZZS)" farmers party (5 - 17 %), and 3) the nationalist "Nacionālā Apvienība (NA)" soft-core eugenic reign (4 - 14 %) are up on the main menu as always. Next on the list are:
  • the populist, Donald-Trump-type demagogic "everything is bad, will dance for anything" KPV.LV party for no-brainers (6 - 18 %);
  • the "new conservatives (JKP)" (2 - 15 %), when most people still have no idea of how a "new conservative" concept differs from being a regular conservative, if only you are not relatively dead, but still dream about 1922;
  • basketballers + American-hype neo-liberals "Attīstībai/Par (A/Par)" (2 - 12 %) - the combination speaks for itself;
  • the fallen Icarus of pro-European "Jaunā Vienotība (JV)" cautiously coming out of remnants after a great flight, red hair and disastrous PR (3 - 9 %);
  • the leftover and dropout "Latvian Association of Regions (LRA)" party of countryside monotonity (~1 - 3 %);
  • the "rights to all, even to your pet lizard", yes-men(women) "Progressives (P)" (~1 - 3 %), who really seem to be the most up-to-date party, yet holds too many focal points to concentrate on and close-to-zero experience in making actual political decisions/strategy in parliamentary theatre;
  • and the rest of failures.
simpsons, election 2018 latvia, capital r blog, donald trump cartoon, simpsonu partijas
© Armands Leimanis, 2018

Apart from sarcasm (and not taking this too personal), eventually this is what scares young adults the most, including me. That there is the most active political structurization (16 parties) in the last 16 years (the total number of nominees is the biggest since the 1991 restoration of Independence of Latvia - 1470 people e.i. 15 nominees per place in parliament1), yet there is again only hope and still not a single perfect combination of - clear, strong, logical, meaningful, experienced, reliable, trustworthy and contemporary-thinking candidate to run the coalition. And if there is - no chance it will be elected any time soon.

    Meanwhile this year's overall stats and mental climate in general look more European than ever, at least there is a solid anti-establishment movement dominating among the people with 68 % of constituency willing to see new, seemingly reliable faces in politics, and this per cent usually consists of the voice of younger adults rather than the grey vote (there are only 11 % of constituency left willing to keep the present establishment, parties, politicians6). 80 % of party nominees have higher education and 32 % of them are women; the "Progressives" even try pushing feminine agenda through their headline candidates. Also, for the first time, Public Broadcast of Latvia have developed an in-depth test, and the independent magazine IR created "Political Tinder" (both in Latvian only) for you to find your true political calling.

    Still, around super-high 20 - 40 % of electorate have not yet decided and 5 - 15 % seem not to participate at all (the activity has been dropping since 1991 of roughly 58 - 72 % of electorate voting with the record lowest during the last 2014 election2). Some again worry that their favourite parties might not reach the 5 % barrier thus not qualifying - this means all the votes for parties under 5 % bar will be distributed proportionally among the "axis of evil" and other winners (although not a single ballot is lost for your initial party). This again might lead to some considering 1) not to vote at all or 2) making "the least worst decision" by electing the old crabs again - both options always turn out to be disastrous. Some confusion is also caused by the two/three potentially-best/most logical choices ranting against each other rather than finding one uniting cause/enemy like in the old days.
      post-soviet ad, stalin, election adverstisement, latvija, latvia
      "Those not voting will elect his friends". c. 1993
    Meanwhile a few hope their party (e.g. the Progressives) will reach at least 2 per cent of votes, thus will be able to receive financial support from the country (each ballot will represent 0,71 eur annually transferred to each party out of the national budget in order to lower cases of unsure political funding3).
    On top of that, to make the whole situation more fun, a research centre SKDS (usually providing most objective public survey results) are even practising unconventional forms of opinion gathering. One example - on their own initiative SKDS gather annual data on finding the most aggressive electorate, and the survey even consists of a question like "How often do you consider shooting all those, who are to blame for the current life conditions in Latvia"4. And someone alleged Latvians have no sense of humour. It's just pretty dark.
    Populism and fake news agenda are on the rise this season again and is pulled as absurdist performances by mostly KPV.LV ("Who owns the country.lv"). As long as it boarders with - "we know who's stealing more that others", or "someone is spying on me, because they know I will tell the truth" and "we are the only ones to reveal all the bad secrets", I don't much bother. Yet I hope it will never go as far as the Italian Senate approving its first piece of anti-vax legislation already5 after populist agenda going to far.

    Apart from all this there has been no record of other creative stunts being executed this year yet like the ones since 1995, when a politician Joahims Zīgerists tried buying votes for bananas (no joke). Or when in the late 90's a new political star, Finnish-Latvian Jussi Pekkonen, was emerging. Played by a comedian Andris Ūdris, Jussi became a national celebrity proposing true populist promises to all the people thus becoming the first satirical fake-polititian in Latvian history as we know it.
      jussi pekonens, vakara ziņas, reklāma, vēlēšanas
      "Vote for Jussi Pekkonen and you will be restful about the future!". c.1998
    In 2010 the economical crisis lead to forming the first real semi-pirate-progressive "Pēdējā (Last) Partija". Although, sadly, it hasn't been active for a couple of years, many political movements today have followed and updated many ideas of "Pēdējā Partija" by having both - more progressive statements and completely new faces/young people. Yet the seemingly positive situation could only cause extra difficulties. From one hand it has become more difficult to keep your head cool when analysing all hundreds of candidates and their true intentions - there are no two, three or four old gits fighting each other any more like the "good, old times". From the other hand - there are too many parties that we, the updated people, can vote for.
    To explain the situation we sometimes joke - there are again 5 parties for 3 Latvians.
    And, if not somehow subconsciously agreeing and narrowing down our choice to a few best options, the potentially reliable political forces like "Attīstībai/Par", "Progresīvie" or "Jaunā Vienotība" might end up having lower than 5 % of ballots thus leading to "the axis of evil" gathering more leftover votes than ever before. One of the main reasons - like mentioned earlier, they share seemingly similar views on some subjects and seemingly similar opposition, yet keep on arguing to each other, and it helps none of the parties.

    zaļo zemnieku savienība, zaļo un zemnieku savienība, mēs esam nākotne, brigmanis, vēlēšanas, reklāma uz busiņa, 2018
    "We are the future". 2018

    I have almost finished this post, but still cannot remember for whom I cast my vote many years ago. Yet many of my friends do - once they turned 18, they did or didn't vote as a protest, or did for protesting minor-parties e.g. "Pēdējā Partija", or for major names in solidarity with the rest of their family. A few of my friends were already involved in parties at some point back then - youth organizations, marketing campaigns, observers.

    I only hope the current generation of young adults have been more concerned about their standpoint than me, and this year's ballots will be filled with less ignorant and more wiser, logical, and cold-blooded decisions. Otherwise - we will have to cope with living in a "narrowed-state" what Latvia has become in recent years for the next 4 years. And I don't want that at all.

    Mārtiņš Eņģelis
    editor-in-chief


    1 Reģistrēti 16 saraksti vēlēšanām - politologi sola asu priekšvēlēšanu cīņu LSM.lv
    2 12.Saeimas vēlēšanās zemākā vēlētāju aktivitāte atjaunotās Latvijas vēsturē. TVNET.lv
    3 Valsts budžeta finansējums knab.gov.lv
    4SKDS aptaujā atklājas Latvijas agresīvākie un mierīgākie vēlētāji. LA.lv
    5Doctors are furious at Italy’s populist government for approving a dangerous anti-vax law. Vice News
    6Mēnesi pirms Saeimas vēlēšanām daudz neizlēmušo. LSM.lv

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