Berzins urges for calm on referendum issue

  • 2012-08-08
  • From wire reports

MAJORITY RULES: Imants Paradnieks says bill is still weak in defending national interests.

RIGA - President Andris Berzins has once again sent back to Saeima the amendments to the law on initiating a referendum, ones which make the procedure much more difficult than the current practice, reports LETA. Berzins, however, noted that the necessary corrections and changes in the legislation that he previously requested were made.
His decision to send them back again has a new reason: a petition he received, signed by 38 MPs calling on the president to halt promulgation because of the threat of a new referendum being organized on the amendments themselves.

Last week the opposition’s Union of Greens and Farmers, with the help of opposition Harmony Center, gathered the necessary 34 signatures from Saeima members to propose a nationwide referendum on the new referendum initiation procedure.
Berzins says that the Saeima parties need to come up with some sort of compromise on this issue. The president urges them to work to avoid an unnecessary referendum, and that money that is needed for other things is not spent on such a referendum.

The latest amendments to the referendum initiation procedure stipulate that, starting from 2015, initiators of a referendum on amending the Constitution or on dissolution of the parliament will have to themselves collect one-tenth of the voters’ signatures - about 150,000 signatures altogether - and cover the cost of the signature drive.
Currently, initiating a referendum requires 10,000 voter signatures to be collected, whereas the further signature collection process, where no less than one-tenth of the electorate’s signatures must be collected, is organized by the Central Election Commission at the state’s expense.
The amendments also stipulate that during the transition period until 2015, organizers of a referendum will have to gather 50,000 signatures.

During the transition period, if referendum initiators collect 50,000 signatures, the signatures will have to be submitted to the Central Election Commission, which will organize collection of the remaining signatures, and if one-tenth of the electorate’s signatures are eventually collected, the commission will consider announcing a referendum. In order to organize a referendum on dissolution of the parliament, 10,000 signatures will have to be collected in the first round, and the Central Election Commission will have to organize the collection of the remaining signatures.

Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity) said he was surprised at the Union of Greens and Farmers’ sudden change in attitude on the referendum issue. The prime minister said when the Russian language referendum was being organized, the Greens/Farmers were in agreement with coalition parties that corrections are needed to the referendum initiation procedure.

“If Harmony Center’s position on this issue is understandable, then the Greens/Farmers have once again changed their stance, and their reason for this is not quite understandable,” Dombrovskis said.
All for Latvia!-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK member Imants Paradnieks says that the bill is still not good enough with the new amendments, as it has not achieved the goal of preventing referendums that are not in the nation’s interest. For instance, the signature drive for granting citizenship to all non-citizens of Latvia cannot be halted, said Paradnieks.
Dombrovskis added that “the initiators of various referendums should keep in mind what their activities may cost the state.”