Latvian voters do not elect the country’s prime minister. They elect the parliament, which confirms the president’s choice to lead the government. But that hasn’t stopped political parties from putting forth their candidates for the ministru prezidents in an effort to sway voters.
The latest name on the list? Laimes Lācis—as in the 1923 play by Latvian writer Andrejs Upīts. The big, white bear is the candidate of Pēdēja partija, No. 11 on the list of parties vying for seats in the parliament. The party is not exactly taking the election seriously, but its campaign is an overall commentary on the state of politics in Latvia.
Party officials unveiled their candidate for the prime ministership during a Sept. 7 press conference in Rīga.
“The parties’ pre-election show, where prime ministerial candidates of various patinas get pushed to the forefront like dolls, equally well satisfies both the public and the media,” the party announced the day before on its website. That is why Pēdējā partija—whose motto is Nezinu. Neesmu izlēmis (I don’t know. I haven’t decided.)—decided to also put forth its candidate.
According to the bear’s curriculum vitae, he was born in 1923, his father is Upīts and his mother is unknown. Lācis is related to the late Communist and writer Vilis Lācis; to Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev (medved is Russian for “bear”); the unsavory cartoon character Pedobear; the former president of Latvia, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga; and U.S. President Barack Obama. He claims to have been with Latvian explorer Aleksandrs Laime when the latter in 1955 became the first Westerner to reach Venezuela’s Angel Falls on foot.
Laimes Lācis is going up against a number of well-known candidates for prime minister. The Vienotība coalition wants to see the incumbent, Valdis Dombrovskis, keep his job. Harmony Centre (Saskaņas Centrs) is offering up socialdemocrat Jānis Urbanovičs. The Par labu Latviju! coalition wants businessman and Rīga Vice Mayor Ainārs Šlesers. The Union of Greens and Farmers (Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība) wants businessman and Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs.
Needless to say, the bear is bound to be disappointed come Oct. 2, which is election day.
And for some extra fun, listen to “Galva ķīlā,” a song devoted to the party recorded by musicians Ansis Ataols Bērziņš and Juris Riekstiņš. The tune is the Italian revolutionary song “Bandierra rosa,” but the lyrics are in Latvian, Latgallian and Russian. The song is available on the social network draugiem.lv.
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