Dual motives

  • 2004-10-06
The People's Party draft law forbidding those holding dual citizenship from standing in the Saeima and 23 other senior state positions passed its first reading on September 30, leading many to assume the government will have no trouble in passing the proposed legislation into law, even with the help of the far left parties.

It is, however, surprising how far the bill has come, and how close it appears to being passed, especially given that the People's Party hasn't even bothered to offer any coherent arguments for the restrictions or explained what purpose they would serve.

So where did the bill come from? Did it really grow out of Anta Rugate's (the author of the bill) Master's thesis, or is it a more calculated political attack aimed at the People's Party's main rival New Era, which has four MPs who hold dual citizenship? Rugate also recently said that such a law is needed to prevent the possibility of a dual Russian- Latvian citizen from becoming the Education Minister in the future.

Alexanders Kirsteins of the People's Party stood before Parliament and sarcastically asked if foreign Latvians wanted the honor of serving Belarus, Cyprus or Latvia.

Janis Freimanis, another member of the People's Party, wrote in an editorial in Neatkariga Rita Avize that those citizens who left Latvia in 1944 were essentially economic migrants. This argument is as asinine and similar as that used by Soviet propaganda.

It's difficult to know if these weak arguments have any effect on public opinion. So far the only indication that there is public support for the restrictions is a survey by the website delfi.lv where 62 percent of participants supported the draft law.

New Era decried the proposed legislation in an open letter, pointing out that Latvia is suffering from one of the sharpest population declines in Europe, and asked why pass such a counterproductive law at this critical time.

For now President Vaira Vike-Freiberga has not commented on the draft legislation, and will likely wait until it is either accepted or in its final reading. But she has the power to return it to the Saeima . Vike-Freiberga, who hails from the 200,000-odd Latvian Diaspora, had to give up her Canadian citizenship, as the presidency is currently the one state position that requires holding only one passport.

In a meeting of the World Federation of Free Latvians on Oct. 5, an umbrella organization for the Diaspora, Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks, also from the People's Party, said that he did not personally support that law as it has been formulated. Yet his party is behind it.

Since the People's Party has so far not bothered to provide a clear explanation for the purpose of this law, one can only suspect that it's been created for short-term gains, namely limiting New Era's membership. It will be little surprise then that if this law is passed the sizable Latvian Diaspora will feel betrayed.

The head of the Constitutional Protection Bureau Janis Kazocins, has already given up his British passport, but the decision is far easier for members of the Diaspora whose other passport is from an EU member state - the majority of dual passport holders, however, live in either North America or Australia, where giving up their other citizenship means something far more drastic