Latvia's parliament fails to approve Prosecutor General

  • 2010-04-21
  • By Kira Savchenko

SURPRISE VERDICT: Saeima, in a secret ballot, voted to reject a third term for incumbent Janis Maizitis.

RIGA - The Latvian parliament voted against extending the prosecutor general Janis Maizitis mandate for a third term, although most factions had promised to vote for him several days before. State officials became furious with such actions. Analysts are sure that politicians are afraid of some criminal proceedings being investigated by Maizitis’ office and want to find themselves a pocket prosecutor.

In the secret ballot there were 47 MPs who voted against Maizitis’ reinstatement, 45 voted for and two ballots were invalid. Such a result was very sudden, because only the Farmers and Greens Union (17 mandates) and Latvia’s First Party/Latvian Way (10 mandates) said before they were going to have a free vote, but the other parliamentary factions promised to support the prosecutor general. It turned out that at least 20 MPs had suddenly changed their minds, but nobody admitted to this.

The Prime Minister’s party “New Era” and pro-Russian opposition parties “Harmony center” and “For Human Rights in a United Latvia” supported Maizitis’ re-election from the beginning. The biggest opposition party, the People’s Party, which recently resigned from the Cabinet and left the government in minority, had been delaying its reply, but finally promised to vote positively. After Maizitis was blocked they said that they kept their word and were surprised with the result, as was everybody else.

President Valdis Zatlers’ reaction to the parliament’s actions was strictly negative, said his spokesmen.
“The parliament judicial committee had approved Maizitis’ candidacy, and then the MPs reject him secretly without any arguments. The lawmakers have serious problems with understanding what lawfulness is,” stated Zatlers.
It was obvious that some MPs were lying to the public, said Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis. “Such hypocritical behavior is unseemly for lawmakers.”

The former president of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, said she was shocked by the MPs’ impudence and falseness. “I was not surprised with the result. It was quite predictable. The only thing I was surprised about was several lawmakers’ barefaced lie. It was obvious that they will vote against, but still, they tried to convince the public of their sincerity,” said Vike-Freiberga through her spokeswoman Daina Lasmane.

Oligarchs and MPs were protecting themselves from criminal proceedings being investigated by Maizitis, said Aivars Endzins, the former head of the Constitutional Court of Latvia. “The Latvian parliament showed its duplicity and shamelessness again. It proved that you cannot believe a single word they say. They lost face completely this time. I think it was done in order to protect [Aivars] Lembergs (the powerful Latvian oligarch and mayor of Ventspils) who is now under investigation on suspicion of corruption.”

The prosecutor general planned to increase a campaign against economic crimes and money laundering, in which many politicians are involved, said Endzins. He is strongly convinced that Maizitis should continue to work until the elections in October and the new prosecutor general be approved by the new parliament, because this one has discredited itself.
Chief Justice Ivars Bickovics, who is responsible for announcing a new candidate, said he will not do so until May. He did not rule out the possibility of a second nomination of Maizitis. “We all need some time to understand what exactly happened in the parliament,” said Bickovics.

Several parliamentary factions already have agreed to have a new vote for the prosecutor general.