Latvia’s Socialist party, whose membership and electorate are mostly Russian, held a congress in Riga on May 2 to set strategy for the upcoming electoral campaign. Calling for rapid naturalization of the “Russian-speaking population,” speakers defined the party’s main goal as changing the Latvian government’s “pro-capitalist” and “anti-Russian” policies. They particularly targeted Latvia’s goal to join NATO, arguing that this course would provoke Russian economic sanctions and thus “Latvia’s complete bankruptcy,” for which the Latvian government would be blamed. This argument seems set to become a major theme in the electoral campaign.
Speakers at the congress called for the formation of a “strong left-wing bloc” of the Socialist party, the Ravnopravie (Equal Rights Movement), and left-of-center Latvian parties which consider relations with Russia to be of overriding importance. The Socialist Party is a successor to Latvia’s Communist Party. Ravnopravie is the successor to the Interfront, which opposed Latvia’s independence movement in the last years of Soviet rule. (BNS, Russian agencies, May 2)
The Socialists are only minimally represented in parliament because many Russian settlers of the Soviet era do not have Latvian citizenship. Mass enfranchisement of this population could result in the formation of a leftist parliamentary bloc strong enough to thwart market reforms and the country’s accession to NATO. With a Russian population of nearly 40 percent, Latvia is more vulnerable than either Estonia or Lithuania. Should Latvia be forced to opt for neutralism, the accession of Estonia and Lithuania to NATO could be jeopardized because the three Baltic states are inseparable from a defense standpoint and are treated as a unit by NATO.
GEORGIAN-TURKISH NAVAL EXERCISE: A BREAKTHROUGH FOR GEORGIA.