Latvia may be represented in the EU by KGB agents

  • 2001-08-02
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - The Latvian Parliament is currently trying to determine how to elect people to represent the country in the European Parliament, given that Latvia will eventually gain admission to the European Union. But there is one small snag; as the election law now stands, ex-KGB employees are welcome to run for the European Parliament, even though former KGB employees are not allowed to run for the national Parliament.

Latvia's Election Commission Chairman Arnis Cimdars told Baltic News Service that the new law has been developed with the future in mind, but that there are certain issues that need to be solved before the law can be amended.

"By developing the law, Latvia's election procedure was taken into account following the election features in the EU," Cimdars said. "There is one problem, however. The EU has a pre-election registration system, while in Latvia voters only register right before they toss their votes in the ballots."

He also said that voting over the Internet has also been thought of, but this idea may not happen since it is believed to be unsecure.

There have been several cases in Latvia when computer hackers have managed to break into official government home pages. These messages have all been erased, but it still shows that there is a lack of security in the government's computer network.

"If something goes wrong with a computer network in a bank and the bank machines don't work, someone might have to go without lunch. But if something goes wrong with a computer system on election day, then the whole election is spoiled," Cimdars said.

The law project does state that the Latvian government must issue regulations for establishing, funding and maintaining an electorate register by Jan. 1, 2002. Latvia hopes to join the EU by the end of 2002 and this is why this new election law has to be formed. The first European Parliament elections for Latvia would in this case be ready in 2004.

The election commission chairman refused to give any statements on the ex-KGB bid matter, simply saying: "That is a political issue, which must be discussed by Parliament members.

The Latvian Parliament's legal commission chairman Linards Mucins said he has not yet been given an opportunity to review the project closer. But he added that it should be in accordance with national laws regulating election procedures.

"I think that all former KGB agents should be banned from becoming European Parliament members for another 10 years, but this will be discussed when the legislation goes through Parliament," said Mucins.

He also said there could be people who would seize this opportunity to become members of the European Parliament. "Everything is possible these days," he said.

All citizens who are 18 years of age on election day would be allowed to vote for the European Parliament. Voting rights have been taken away from those in jail and those in pre-trial detention, as well as those who are currently going through court proceedings. Latvia would in these elections be considered as one whole region, and lists of candidates would be submitted to the election commission by political parties and their unions.

The legislative project developed by the Ministry of Justice foresees that the law could take effect as soon as Latvia joins the EU. For now it is only a project that is still to be looked into by the government.