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Expert: Zhdanok’s decision to leave EP was carefully calculated to revive Latvian Russians Union

Tatyana Zhdanok/flickr.com.
The decision made by member of the European Parliament (EP) and leader of Latvian Russians Union (LRU) Tatyana Zhdanok, in accordance with which she intends to leave the European Parliament to instead focus on LRU’s election campaign, was a carefully calculated step to reanimate the party, said dean of Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Latvia Juris Rozenvalds.

He says Zhdanok is a well-known figure among Russians living in Latvia, and she will use opportunities like the education reform to rally people.

«It was a very calculated step – there is nothing for her to lose by doing that. She can, however, gain much if she uses the opportunities provided by political parties that are in power in Latvia. This includes the school reform, which, to be honest, is realized rather incompetently. There is no real argument voiced against Russian-speaking portion of Latvia’s society, but it is also an opportunity for Zhdanok to use the situation when part of Russian-speaking voters may not be all too happy with changes,» explains Rozenvalds.

According to him, Zhdanok’s involvement in LRU’s election campaign is an opportunity for her and LRU to promote themselves, in spite of the fact that Zhdanok herself will likely be unable to participate in Saeima elections. «It is an opportunity to attract attention,» said the expert, adding that it is important for LRU and Zhdanok, considering the decline of supporters in the last EP elections. There is also the possibility that Zhdanok may become a candidate for the next EP elections.

«She is a good choice – there is nothing for people to lose, and it allows rallying slightly more radical Russian-speaking voters dissatisfied with Harmony’s policy,» says Rozenvalds.

Although it is entirely possible the Constitutional Court may decide against Zhdanok’s participation in Saeima elections as a candidate, «her active involvement could help reanimate LRU,» said the dean.

Rozenvalds explains that from Harmony’s perspective Zhdanok’s activity is ambiguous. «LRU could take some portion of voters, but it is also possible that more Latvian-speaking voters may vote for Harmony if the party demonstrates that it is not radical,» added the expert.

Zhdanok has already turned to EP with a request to put down her mandate and return to Latvia. She intends to lead LRU’s pre-election campaign. Her participation in elections, however, will depend on the decision from the Constitutional Court.

Saeima Election Law prohibits persons that worked in the Communist Party, Latvian PSR Workers’ International Front, the Joint Council of Labor Collectives, the Organization of War and Labor Veterans, the All-Latvian Society Rescue Committee or its regional committees after 13 January 1991 to participate in elections. Zhdanok has appealed the Constitutional Court’s established restrictions on voting rights for Soviet activists.

She did work in the Communist Party after 13 January 1991. Because of that, she is not allowed to participate in Saeima elections.


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