Signature campaign successful, Latvian security law referendum to go ahead

  • 2007-05-04
  • From wire reports
According to a preliminary tally, more than 212,000 Latvian residents of Latvia have signed their names in the nationwide poll in support of holding a popular referendum on disputed national security bills, the Latvian Central Election Commission reported on May 3.

The result means that the referendum has been given the green light. During the four-week signature collection period, the Central Election Commission had to gather the signatures of 10 percent of Latvia's voting population, or 149,064 signatures, for each of the two bills in order to send the amendments to a referendum.

The amendments to national security law sparked enormous controversy and nearly plunged Latvia into a political crisis when they were passed by Parliament earlier this year. The government initially pushed the amendments through using a special law which allows them to pass bills while Saeima (parliament) is in recess, a move which the president blasted as brazen and unnecessary.

The amendments, which were supported by the government and Parliament, would drastically change parliamentary oversight of Latvia's law enforcement agencies. In the president's opinion, they would harm the delicate balance of forces in the country and jeopardize the country's standing with security allies.

The president vetoed the bill, sending it to parliament for revision. When parliament sent it back to her desk unchanged on March 10, the president still refused to promulgate the amendments, exercising her right under article 72 of the constitution to initiate the signature campaign to call for a popular referendum on the bills.

This was the first time since Latvia regained its independence that a president has twice refused to promulgate a bill and resorted to the will of the people as arbiter.

Government leaders, meanwhile, argue that the bills work to improve coordination among government institutions with regards to security, and that the amendments would be considered a normal set of laws in most other countries.

The election commission is expected to announce the official results of the signature collection campaign next week.