Latvija in brief - 2006-04-05

  • 2006-04-05
Parliament renewed an MP mandate for dismissed transport minister Ainars Slesers from Latvia's First Party on March 30. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis demanded the transport minister's resignation after it was revealed that he participated in a vote-buying scandal during Jurmala's municipal elections. Latvia's First Party nominated Krisjanis Peters as a candidate for the minister's post, although he lacks support from coalition partner New Era. After Slesers' mandate is renewed, no other lawmaker from Latvia's First will have to leave Parliament, since Slesers' wife, who is also an MP, is going on maternity leave.

The Foreign Ministry has announced Latvia's candidacy for a place on the new UN Human Rights Council, set for election on May 9. "Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks has identified the ministry's priority, actively voicing Latvia's position in the international organization," said the ministry. Representation in the new 47-member Human Rights Council will be distributed among regional groups. Latvia has announced its candidacy for a seat in the Eastern European group, which will have a total of six seats. The Human Rights Council will be directly subordinate to the UN General Assembly and will be elected to a three-year term in a secret ballot at the General Assembly. If Latvia is elected, its permanent representative to the UN in Geneva would serve.

A night of anti-Soviet anecdotes was held at the Occupation Museum in Riga on April 4 for the third year in a row. Speakers included experts from the Latvian folklore archives Guntis Pakalns and Beatrise Reidzane, as well as Professor Boriss Infantjevs. But everyone with a good anti-Soviet joke to share was welcome to join the event. The Occupation Museum said that political anecdotes, although illegal, were very popular among people in the Soviet era, albeit whispered behind closed doors. "It was one of the ways for mental resistance. People were punished harshly for telling such jokes. They were fired, sent to labor camps and deported," said organizers.

The National Armed Forces recorded 1,329 breaches of military discipline last year, 34 more than in 2004. In 557 cases soldiers were found to be neglecting their duties, 265 offences were related to internal or guard services, 165 soldiers missed their duties and left the premises without permission or did not return. The army found four cases of narcotic use and three unwarranted applications for weapons. Last year, 1,220 disciplinary punishments were inflicted upon offenders.

Voters will be able to register by mail in Latvia's next parliamentary elections, the Central Election Commission said. Registration for postal voting will continue until September 15. On April 3, the central election commission approved provisions for organizing ballots by mail and setting up foreign polling stations and election commissions.