Latvia. Since Latvia’s crisis economy turned upwards in 2010, growth accelerated in 2011. In the first half of Latvia, GDP grew by over 4%, and in the third quarter the figure was over 6%.
But the economic recovery was disturbed by growing corruption. When Knab’s anti-corruption agency made over 40 raids in May against the country’s three powerful so-called oligarchs, a political crisis was triggered. Parliament refused to lift the immunity of one of the oligarchs, who were parliamentarians, and a house search was stopped. President Valdis Zatlers then decided to dissolve Parliament and announce new elections on the grounds that the elected officials were under the influence of corruption-suspected oligarchs.
According to Countryaah official site, Zatler’s resignation came just a week before Parliament was to appoint a new president. Zatlers were voted out by the elected officials, and in June the new parliamentarian was elected Andris Bērziņš, who got 53 votes to 41 for the Zatlers. The election outcome was a setback for the government that supported Zatler’s candidacy.
In July, a referendum was held on the presidential decision to dissolve Parliament. Over 94% of voters supported the resignation of Zatler at the time, and a new election to Parliament was announced in September. Zatlers took advantage of its newfound popularity and stood in the election with a newly formed middle-right party. His stated goal was to break the power of the oligarchs in politics. But Zatler’s party was also a challenge to Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovski’s Party Unit, as they competed for the same electoral base.
Thus, the opposition party Harmonicentern, which denotes itself Social Democratic, could win the election. The Harmonic Center received just over 28% of the vote, Zatler’s Reform Party gained just under 21% and Unity, which lost many voters, stayed at just under 19%. The Latvian Nationalist National Alliance rose strongly to close to 14%, while the oligarch-influenced Party of the Greens and Peasants’ Association declined and gained just over 12%. The oligarchs were weakened by the decline of the Greens by another oligarch dissolving their party and by a third being knocked out of Parliament in the election.
Zatlers wanted to create the first government in Latvia where a party dominated by Russian-speaking voters and politicians – the Harmonic Center – participated, but he did not get a majority for it. After difficult negotiations, therefore, Zatler’s Reform Party merged with the Unity and the National Alliance in a coalition where Dombrovskis became prime minister. The new government took office in October and was supported by 56 of Parliament’s 100 members.
In November, Latvia’s Savings Bank went bankrupt, since its principal owner Vladimir Antonov was suspected of embezzling the equivalent of SEK 1.3 billion of the bank’s funds. Despite the banking crisis, the government was able to end Latvia’s three-year loan program with the IMF in December.