Latvian IT entrepreneur gives the people a voice in politics
Kristofs, 23, from Riga wanted to get his fellow citizens more involved in politics. He launched a unique website that allows for digital petitions – and it’s been an immediate success.
From DW reporter Gederts Gelzis in Riga:
For us Latvians, politics is usually something that seems to be very distant. We are more or less like outsiders and, God forbid, if you’re involved into politics in some way or another, you will likely hear: “There’s no dirtier business than that!” And if somebody happens to be connected with politics, then they will be men and women at least in their late thirties, forties or older.
That’s why I was really surprised when I met Kristofs Blaus at his rather small, but light, cosy and somewhat trendy office near the port of Riga – a 15-minute walk from the old town. I didn’t find a serious, middle-aged man wearing a pin-striped suit and holding a leather suitcase standing in front of me. There was a young 23-year-old in a casual outfit and with an unusual hairstyle.
He kind of embodies the great difference between the older generation of Latvians, which experienced the Soviet era and those kids who grew up in the country during the last two decades. He speaks English fluently; he’s an Internet-dweller and speaks his mind openly. And that’s not all – he really seems to care about his debt-ridden country’s future and is willing to do something about it.
I guess that many of his peers think similarly and that’s why his website Manabalss.lv isn’t just a project which happens to be in the right place at the right time. It’s that the tide is slowly turning on what the young Latvians think about participation in political events and during the interview I felt that Kristofs is a clear example of it.
Of course, Kristofs is just one of the 700,000 inhabitants of Riga and the word “politics” is on everyone’s lips ahead of the general election on September 17. But as long as Kristofs doesn’t give up his enthusiasm for developing the website, I believe that there will be more and more Latvians willing to bring about some positive change in their country.