Crisis prompts constitutional debate

  • 2007-11-07
  • Staff and wire reports
RIGA - The government crisis which has led to widespread speculation that Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis will have to step down (see story Page 1), has opened the debate for constitutional amendments which would diminish the government's powers.
Two separate constitutional amendments are on the table 's one which would allow the people to dissolve parliament by popular vote and one which would increase the president's independence from the government.
The Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia used the massive Nov. 3 rally against the government in Riga's Old Town to gather signatures in support of a referendum on constitutional amendments allowing the people to directly dissolve Parliament.

When The Baltic Times went to press, the organization had collected 6,000 signatures in support of the amendments. LBAS representatives said that it plans to continue the signature gathering drive until it has enough to meet the 10,000 mark which would initiate a referendum.
President Valdis Zatlers has come out against the amendments, arguing that they should be discussed by legal experts before any further action is taken.
"No constitutional law experts have provided any conclusions or findings as to whether these amendments would be the right ones, wanted by the people," the president said in a Nov. 5 interview with LNT commercial television.

Zatlers warned against the possibility that "huge work is done and the signatures are collected, but we end up leading a Trojan horse into the parliament." The president also said that he felt the signature gathering campaign had been launched on the heels of the strong emotions surrounding the rally and that the drive is being conducted "in a hurry and carelessly."
The president, meanwhile, is preparing to launch a debate on his own set of constitutional amendments. Those amendments would increase the president's independence from the government.
The president has set up a constitutional commission to assess amending clause 53 of the constitution, which stipulates that presidential decrees must be approved by the prime minister 's or the relevant minister 's in all but two instances.

Latvia's TV3 program "Nothing Personal" reported on Nov. 4 that the amendments would allow, for example, the president to present a draft budget to Parliament without the government's approval.