INFLUENCE OF INTEREST GROUPS IN LATVIA ON CENTRALIZATION
Keywords:local government, Administrative territorial reform, interest groups, centralization, Latvia
Latvia has experienced four administrative-territorial reforms in 30 years. In 1989, local and regional elections were the first democratic elections in Latvia since 1934. From 1990 to 1992, self-governments were the main authority for re-establishing national independence and transforming the country from totalitarianism to democracy. The transformation process starts with wide decentralization, including substantial fiscal decentralization and substantial administrative decentralization.
The first reform was the centralization (1994) of Rīga city government (1 self-government instead of a two-tier system, with 6 district local governments and 1 city local government). The second reform abolished elections in 26 regional councils (1998) and replaced them by delegates from local governments. The third reform (2009) was abolishing regional governments and reducing the number of local governments 5 times. The fourth reform will be implemented after June 5 2021, and its content is reduction of the number of municipalities 3 times. Therefore, from 596 local and regional governments in 1990s, Latvia will only have 42 local governments.
All those reforms were directed towards centralization. Official goals of public administration reforms can differ from real intents of pressure groups, who impact ruling political parties and central government decisions. The paper aims to analyze reforms depending on pressure groups, who believe in benefits from centralization. Methods of policy analysis and grouping of statistics about administrative territories are used.
They provided research shows that real goals of all four reforms were an expression of political competition. Dominating interest groups in each case have conflicting interests. Previous reforms facilitated emigration and peripheries effect, while the positive impact on regional development is not achieved. The impact of the last reform will largely depend on the results of the next parliamentary election of 2022.
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