RIGA - Parliament supported a draft law barring officials from holding two citizenships on Thursday, setting the stage from a dramatic debate between the government and thousands of Latvian exiles in the West.
MPs supported the draft law, proposed by a deputy from the People's Party, in concept only, though it is expected that, with the help of leftist factions, the law could be approved.
If that were to happen, ministers holding two passports would be forced to either give up their original passport - e.g., U.S.A. or U.K. - or their government job.
The right-wing opposition parties, For Fatherland and Freedom and New Era, spoke passionately against the bill.
"This is a terrible mistake," said Juris Dobelis, an MP from For Fatherland and Freedom, told the Baltic News Service, adding that the bill was an attempt to split Latvians.
New Era MP Ainars Latkovskis said that the draft was aimed against Latvian ex-pats. He said he was sorry that the People's Party is turning against people "thanks to whom Latvia was able to regain its independence."
Another New Era MP, Guntis Berzins, who also has double-citizenship.
"We are speaking about people who have returned from abroad to serve Latvia... and many of them have left well-off jobs behind to serve their homeland. These are the people who's loyalty we should doubt least of all," said Berzins.
The move would give Latvian ex-pats a signal that they are no longer needed or wanted in Latvia, he said.
But the People's Party, which is also a right-wing faction and a member of the three-party government coalition, was sticking to its guns. MP Anta Rugate said that the draft law shows that "it is high time to start trusting Latvia completely. A servant that does not belong to any house can not serve two masters."
Janis Jurkans, head of the left-leaning People's Harmony Party, said that dropping a second citizenship "would be a show of honor to the country that has entrusted him with fulfilling top positions of state."