RIGA - The Saeima (Latvia's parliament) appears set to lift restrictions that would allow former KGB staff members and members of the Communist Party who were active after 1990 to take part in the European Parliament elections.
Although the legislation adopted in the second reading provides for restrictions, opinions seem likely to change in the wake of a Jan. 19 meeting of representatives from two factions of Latvia's ruling coalition, New Era and Latvia's First Party, with legal experts.
New Era MPs met with justice Egils Levits, who works at the European Court of Human Rights, and Martins Mits, a lecturer at the Riga Graduate School of Law. Last week the two experts asked the country's justice minister to postpone the final reading of the EP election law to allow for reconsideration of the related restrictions.
New Era member Solvita Aboltina, who heads the Parliament's legal committee, said that her committee had planned a meeting for Jan. 21 to consider the EP election law. She added that the New Era MPs in the committee would most likely vote against the restrictions.
"To tell the truth, there are no legal arguments in support of such restrictions. Several experts in law have underscored it. It has also been stated by the parliamentary legal bureau and the human rights office," Aboltina said.
She noted that as Latvia will become a full-fledged European Union and NATO member later this year allowing such restrictions to continue seems inappropriate. She also voiced concerns that such restrictions might put Latvia in an "unfavorable light" internationally and allow opponents to make accusations of human rights violations.
MP Ingrida Labucka, a member of Latvia's First Party and deputy head of the legal committee, said that she would vote to lift the restrictions and that most MPs from her political party hold the same opinion.
Not surprisingly, in the second reading of the legislation the entire leftist opposition within the Parliament voted against the restrictions.