Change in the air

  • 2007-03-14
  • By TBT staff

The 1920 constitutional assembly did not consider the option of electronic communication among lawmakers when writing theconstitution.

RIGA 's President Vaira Vike-Freiberga on Wednesday said that the article of the constitution allowing the government to pass legislative acts while parliament is in recess is unnecessary.

Article 81 of the constitution has sparked fierce debate recently as the government used the act to push through highly controversial national security amendments. The president went on to veto the amendments, and then parliament overrode her veto. The override prompted Vike-Freiberga to invoke her right to suspend a bill 's the first time that right has been used by a president since Latvia regained independence in 1991.

She has now condemned the article that allowed the government to push through he bills in the first place.

After her weekly meeting with Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, the president told journalists that she does not see any "serious need for Article 81."

"If there is a need for urgent action, why couldn't it be done electronically," the president continued, adding that in the last general elections Estonia, for example, voters could cast their ballots electronically. Considering this, there should not be any problems for lawmakers to keep in touch electronically and call emergency sessions.

"With advanced means of communication it is possible to pass decisions that have to be given legal force in any crisis situation by calling an emergency session of the parliament or contacting lawmakers electronically. We are speaking about e-government here," the president said.

Her comments came in response to a letter she received from three large organizations asking that article 81 be repealed from the constitution. The Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments, the Employers' Confederation of Latvia and the Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia said in their letter that bills have often been passed in too hasty a manner and without the consultations of experts under article 81 's echoing the criticisms that the president had of the national security amendments last week.

"The range of issues regulated by Latvian laws is wide enough to pass new provisions in line with the usual order and not urgently," the letter read.

Saeima (Latvian parliament) is currently preparing to debate the fate of the two amendments 's one to national security law and one to state security. If the government cannot agree on a solution to the conflict over the amendments in a few weeks time then they will be put to a popular vote. The vote will take the form of a month long effort to gather signatures beginning on April 3. Should 10 percent of Latvia's eligible voters 's about 150,000 's sign the petition the issue will go to a referendum in parliament.