“Progressive” after the victory in Riga plans to repeat this success in other municipalities as well


Admittedly, the recurrence of the “dizziness of success” in Congress was almost imperceptible. It can even be said that the congress took place in a relatively peaceful, non-frozen atmosphere. The party itself also tried to position itself as a serious, “traditional” party. Some particularly “progressive” observers on social networks have even blamed why such a “non-progressive” thing on the scene as a presidency table with party leadership. At the same time, the usual performance of the Latvian national anthem in the congresses of other parties (including “Harmony”) was not considered mandatory here and was omitted.

In order to prevent any speculation about the “Progressive” possible departure for autonomous political “swimming”, the party leader and the Riga City Council “For Development / For!” and in his address to the Congress, Mārtiņš Kossovičs, the leader of the Progressive faction, answered a question he had been asked many times – why don’t you form your own faction with your 11 seats? Kossovich shrugged, smiling lightly, saying: why form a faction of 11 deputies if it can be formed of 18 deputies?

Both Kossovičs and other deputies elected in the Riga City Council did not say anything in their speeches (the name was given to all elected deputies) that could be translated as a desire to implement a special policy that could cause difficulties in the coalition. Of course, if you want to, the mention of the far-left US Senator Alexandria Occasio Cortes – as an example to look like – can be seen as a symbolic application to stop what is not being achieved and to face “the last battle that will come with victory”. In any case, “Progressive” promises changes in Riga, and they will definitely be. What, this is another matter. There is no point in talking about promises now, because very soon we will see how what is promised coincides with reality. Then let’s talk.

If we look at the reasons for the success of the “Progressive”, then they once again proved that the widespread rumors that money, political technology or effective advertising determine everything in the elections are not really true. At the heart of politics is one’s own strong conviction, enthusiasm, enthusiasm and interest in the cause. And only then is a cleverly designed election campaign, apt advertisements and everything else. Of all the parties that participated in the Riga City Council elections, the “Progressive” were almost or only those who really wanted to do something for the city with genuine enthusiasm. I admit that for many Rigans, the agenda of the Progressive with their bike lanes, the trees of the Mars bike track and climate neutrality was deeply indifferent, but it was not indifferent to them, which is most important. All the other parties tried to “invent” what could be “sold” to the electorate to vote for them. They themselves had almost no idea what to “advertise” – kindergartens without queues, teachers’ salary supplements, free transport or ideal street coverage.

The “Progressive” Congress also tried to mark its political future. Party Secretary General Miroslav Kodis noted that nine months [līdz pašvaldību vēlēšanām 2021. gada 5. jūnijā] it is not a long time and preparations for these elections must begin now. However, it will be much more difficult for the Progressive in Riga to repeat the success of Riga in other municipalities. There are two reasons for this.

First, for the past five years, the RD coalition led by Ushakov has not only become very “confused”, but has also hampered the city’s development. Therefore, against the background of the previous coalition, it was not difficult to stand out, especially if there was something to offer. In other cities, this background is not so sad. In his address, Kodis called three cities – Jurmala, Liepaja and Ventspils. For all, the main disadvantage is the city government, which has been in power for too long. However, the fact that the city has had one team in power for a long time is not a disadvantage. The main thing is that the city itself develops successfully and does not lag behind others. Therefore, if the “Progressive” want to repeat the success of Riga in other municipalities as well, then they will have to find what to do better and differently, instead of hoping that the slogan “let’s replace the old ones” will suffice.

The second reason is more important, and the “Progressive” themselves will hardly want to eliminate it. Apart from all things related to the urban environment and the social sphere, a large part of the party members do not hide their distinctly cosmopolitan, anti-national orientation, which may not seem a particular obstacle to a part of the Riga public, but outside Riga it can significantly influence voters’ choices.

This position of the “Progressive” raises quite objective concerns. Before the congress, certain passions were caused by the statements of some party members about granting the right to vote to non-citizens (in municipal elections), about the wider use of the Russian language and other controversial issues in Latvia’s political reality. None of these controversial issues were explicitly mentioned in Congress, but it is clear that they will not disappear from the agenda of the party or individual members. However, it was stated that “we are against prejudice, hate speech and sorting out people”. It has been repeatedly emphasized that “we are different” than politicians from other parties.

Unfortunately, claims of special elections always smell of actual intolerance, totalitarianism and the sorting of people into right and wrong, not to mention good and bad.

Although the next mayor of Riga, Mārtiņš Staķis, took part in the congress with a congratulatory speech, and the relations of the Progressive with him and other partners of the faction sounded almost perfect, today no one would predict how these relations will develop in a year or two, when the Saeima elections. The “progressives” still know the time of political maturity and decision-making, but in any case, the party has already won a lasting place in Latvia’s empty left political wing today.

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