RIGA - July 7, 2007 promises to be one the biggest days in recent Latvian political history, witnessing as it does the exit of an exceptionally popular president in Vaira Vike-Freiberga, and a bizarre referendum about legislation that no longer exists.
More than 1,000 polling stations will be open, including 46 overseas, as Latvians vote for or against amendments to the controversial national security bills 's even though the laws have already been dropped.
However, once the extraordinary referendum mechanism was set in motion by the implacable opposition of the president and the government, it was constitutionally impossible to stop, and the vote has effectively turned into a nationwide vote of confidence in the current administration.
The results, which are expected to emerge in provisional form early on Sunday morning before confirmation later in the week, will have no binding effect on the government, but a show of large-scale opposition to the current ruling coalition would force ministers to sit up and take notice. Evidence of widespread dissatisfaction would likely prompt a change of direction in key policy areas, while a landslide would suggest the government no longer has a mandate and could even spark talk of resignation.
On the other hand, a show of support 's which few pollsters are predicting 's would carry the Kalvitis government forward with renewed confidence.