RIGA - Newly-elected President Valdis Zatlers gave his first address to the cabinet of ministers on July 10, his second day in office, and used the opportunity to chastise them over the handling of two national security laws that recently went to referendum (see page 1).
Zatlers commented that nearly 340,000 people noticed the government's "blunder" and voted in the referendum on the bills. "I hope in the future you will be able to explain your decision to the people," he said.
The president said that the government needs to review the entire six month long process leading up to the referendum. He went on to attack the government's behavior on a number of issues surrounding the bills, citing that they were inadequately explained, not properly debated, and pushed through Parliament with undue and unnecessary haste.
He affirmed that he would closely follow any future attempt by the government to amend the national security laws.
Zatlers' tough initial stance is bound to draw a high degree of interest from political analysts. Commentators have said that in order to be an effective president, Zatlers would have to break from the ruling coalition which put him in power.
Zatlers also noted the exceptionally low voter turnout in Latgale, the easternmost region of Latvia, and asked the ministers to increase their political activity in the area.
Daugavpils, Latvia's second largest city, had only 3,600 voters turn out for the referendum 's half as many as turned up in Kuldiga District, which is approximately one third its size.
The president also asked the politicians to work closely with the new anti-inflation plan to help curb the country's wildly rising prices.
Zatlers said that he plans to hold regular meetings with the prime minister and work closely with the government throughout his term. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis took the floor after the president, saying that it will take hard work to promote national self-confidence, and to hold the state language, national traditions and history in high esteem. Kalvitis wished the new president good luck in his post.