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Trade union to press constitutional amendments

  • 2007-12-19
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

SEALED: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Latvian counterpart, Maris Riekstins, traded the approved border treaties on Dec. 18, officially bringing the new border agreement into force.

RIGA - The Latvian Free Trade Union Confederation (LBAS) announced on Dec. 17 that it successfully gathered enough signatures to call for a referendum on constitutional amendments which would allow the people to directly dissolve Parliament.
"Now the process will follow according to Latvian legislation, and we will submit these signatures to the Central Election Commission for review," an LBAS representative said.
"This week we will continue to collect signatures. Sometimes there are some mistakes 's [such as] invalid passports or double signatures 's and so we will continue to collect so that it all works out," the representative said.

LBAS said that it plans to submit the signatures, which totaled 10,343 as of Dec. 18, sometime shortly after New Year's. If the signatures are approved, the Central Election Commission will initiate another signature gathering campaign, which will require the collection of 150,000 signatures in 30 days in order to call a referendum on the issue.
A referendum would have to receive support from half of all eligible voters 's a little less than 750,000 people 's in order to pass.
The move has met with sharp criticism from political analysts and politicians, who argue that allowing the people to directly dissolve Parliament is in reaction to the current situation and would lead to problems in the long term.
Former Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, for example, has said that the amendments could throw the country into chaos.

"If it is done this way, then the state system can be doubted after every election," he said. "I support stability and predictable politics in the country, not chaos."
Some have argued that better than the people-power referendum would be giving the president the power to dissolve Parliament without risking his own position. According to the constitution, if a president tries to disband parliament, he also has to put his own post up to popular vote.
The proposal has found strong support from top officials in the Constitutional Court. As Chairman Gunars Kutris said in a Nov. 26 interview with Latvian public radio, "The power in Latvia belongs to people. Openly speaking, if the nation elected the parliament, the nation should also have the right to demand its dissolution."
Former Constitutional Court Chairman Aivars Endzins also helped draft the laws, which affect paragraphs 78 and 79 of the constitution.

"No less than one-tenth of voters have the right to submit to the president a draft resolution on the dissolution of the parliament, and the president then passes it on to Parliament. If Parliament does not approve it without revisions, the document is put to a popular vote," the proposed amendment reads.
The amendment would also allow the people to put forward completed versions of constitutional amendments or draft bills.
LBAS initiated the signature gathering campaign at a massive Oct. 24 protest held outside the parliament building. The move was in response to failed negotiations between trade unions and the government over next year's budget and social guarantees for employees of certain professions.