Latvian citizens in the eastern Australian cities of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney will be the first to cast their votes in a July 23 national referendum that many observers expect will lead to dissolution of the Saeima and new elections in September.
Polling stations in the homeland and abroad will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time during the referendum. A record number of 78 polling stations will be open outside Latvia, including five in Australia, according to the Central Election Commission in Rīga.
The referendum was set after then-President Valdis Zatlers on May 28 went on national television and—for the first time in Latvian history—used his constitutional power to call for dismissal of the parliament.
Acknowledging the move would most likely result in him not being re-elected by the Saeima, Zatlers took aim at lawmakers’ failure on May 26 to support the prosecutor general’s request to allow a search of residences controlled by oligarch and MP Ainārs Šlesers. The president said the parliament’s decision revealed a split between the legislative and judicial branches of government.
Hailed by many observers as a bold move, albeit late in his presidency, Zatlers’ action has resulted in a boost to his popularity. After in fact failing to get re-elected—losing to new president Andris Bērziņš—Zatlers announced he is forming a new political party that is expected to stand in the forthcoming Saeima elections.
In the meantime, the Saeima in the past month has pushed through a number of reforms that could lead to greater government and financial transparency.
Voters in the referendum will cast ballots either for (par) or against (pret) dissolution of the parliament. Unlike in other Latvian referendums in which a majority of those who voted in the previous parliamentary elections must cast ballots for the referendum to count, this referendum requires a simple majority of all those voting July 23.
If the referendum succeeds, the 10th Saeima will be considered dissolved and elections will be set in September for the 11th Saeima. Under the constitution, if the referendum fails then the president must step down. However, Zatlers’ term in office in expired July 7.
While many political observers expect the referendum will be pass, a few are urging voters to cast ballots against dissolution. They argue that initiatives started by the current saeima would end and that new elections could result in the center-left and pro-Russian Harmony Centre (Saskaņas centrs) gaining more power in the parliament.
The 78 polling stations abroad will be open in:
- Austria at the Embassy of Latvia, Stefan Esders Platz 4, Vienna.
- Australia at the Latvian House “Tālavā,” 4 Clark St., Wayville (Adelaide), South Australia; Latvian House, 24 Church Ave, Buranda (Brisbane), Queensland; Latvian House Melbourne, 3 Dickens St., Elwood, Victoria; Latvian Center, 60 Cleaver Terrace, Belmont (Perth), Western Australia; and the Sydney Latvian House, 32 Parnell St., Stathfield, New South Wales.
- Azerbaijan at the Embassy of Latvia on the sixth floor of the Caspian Plaze, 44 J. Jabbarli St., Baku.
- Belarus at the Embassy of Latvia, 6a Doroshevicha St., Minsk, and the Consulate of Latvia, 27a B. Hmelnickogo St., Vitebsk.
- Brazil at the Honorary Consulate-General of Latvia, Rua Jacques Felix 586, Ap. 12, Sao Paulo.
- Canada at the Embassy of Latvia, 350 Sparks St., Suite 1200, Ottawa; the Latvian Center, 3955 Provost, Lachine, Quebec; and the Latvian Canadian Cultural Centre, 4 Credit Union Drive, Toronto.
- Chile at the Honorary Consulate of Latvia, Miguel Claro 614, Providencia, Santiago.
- China at the Embassy of Latvia, Unit 71, Green Land Garden No. 1A, Green Land Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing.
- The Czech Republic at the Embassy of Latvia, 3 Hradeshinska St., Prague.
- Denmark at the Embassy of Latvia, 17 Rosbaeksvej, Copenhagen, and in west central part of the country at Flegborg 8-10, Vejle.
- Egypt at the Embassy of Latvia on the eighth floor of the Abou El Feda Building, 3 Abou El Feda St., Cairo.
- Estonia at the Embassy of Latvia, 10 Tõnismägi St., Tallinn.
- Finland at the Embassy of Latvia, Armfeltintie 10, Helsinki.
- France at the Embassy of Latvia, 6 villa Saïd, Paris, and the Latvian Permanent Representative Office, 67 Alle de la Robertsau, Strasbourg.
- Georgia at the Embassy of Latvia, 4 Odessa St., Tbilisi.
- Germany at the Embassy of Latvia, Reinerzstr. 40-41, Berlin; the Honorary Consulate of Latvia, Ohmstrasse 22, Munich; the Annaberg Latvian Center, Annaberger Strasse 400, Bonn; Schelztorstrasse 25, Esslingen; Brentanoklub, Brentanosstrasse 23, Frankfurt; Farnstrasse 6, Hamburg; and Latviešu centrs Minsterē, Salzmannstrasse 152, Muenster.
- Greece at the Embassy of Latvia, 38 Vas. Konstantinou Ave., Athens.
- Hungary at the Embassy of Latvia, 20 Vas Gereben utca, Budapest.
- Ireland at the Embassy of Latvia, 92 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, and the C.I.E. Sports & Social Club, Upper Carey’s Road, Limerick.
- Israel at the Embassy of Latvia on the 15th floor of the Amot Investment Tower, 2 Weizman St., Tel Aviv.
- Italy at the Embassy of Latvia, Viale Liegi 42, Rome.
- Japan at the Embassy of Latvia, 37-11 Kamiyama-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.
- Kazakhstan at the Embassy of Latvia in the Kaskad Business Center, Kabanbai Batira Ave. 6/1, Office No. 122, Astana.
- Lithuania at the Embassy of Latvia, 76 M.K.Čiurlionio St., Vilnius.
- Luxembourg at the Honorary Consulate of Latvia, 42a route de Luxembourg, Bridel.
- Netherlands at the Embassy of Latvia, Balistraat 88, 2585 XX ‘s-Gravenhage, The Hague.
- Norway at the Embassy of Latvia, Bygdoy Allé 76, Oslo.
- Poland at the Embassy of Latvia, 19 Królowej Aldony St., Warsaw.
- Portugal at the Embassy of Latvia, Rua do Sacramento a Lapa, No.50, Lisbon.
- Russia at the Embassy of Latvia, Capligina St. 3, Moscow; the Consulate General of Latvia, Vasilevskij ostrov, 10 līnija, 11, St. Petersburg; the Consulate of Latvia, Narodnaja 25, Pskov; and the Latvian Chancery, F. Engelss St. 52a, Kaliningrad.
- Slovenia at the Embassy of Latvia, Tavčarjeva ulica 10-7, Ljubljana.
- Spain at the Embassy of Latvia, calle Alfonso XII 52-1, Madrid.
- Sweden at the Embassy of Latvia, Odengatan 5, Stockholm, and the Latvian Church, Ostergata 30, Göteborg.
- Switzerland at the Latvian Permanent Representative Office, 137 rue de Lausanne, Geneva.
- Turkey at the Embassy of Latvia, Reşit Galip Caddesi, No.95 G.O.P. Çankaya, Ankara.
- Ukraine at the Embassy of Latvia, 6B Ivana Mazepi St., Kiev.
- The United Kingdom at the Embassy of Latvia, 45 Nottingham Place, London; the Daugavas Vanagi House, 5 Clifton Villas, Manningham Lane, Bradford; St. Peters Centre, Church Side, Mansfield; Unity Hall, Northfield Road, Peterborough; the Straumēni rest home, Catthorpe Manor, Catthorpe, Leicestershire; and the Honorary Consulate of Latvia, Drumalane Mill, Newry, Co. Down, Northern Ireland.
- The United States at the Embassy of Latvia, 2306 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C.; the Latvian Permanent Representative Office, 333 East 50th St., New York; the Latvian Ev.-Lutheran Trimda Church, 58 Irving St., Brookline, Mass.; the Latvian Ev.-Lutheran Zion Church, 6551 W. Montrose Ave. Chicago, Ill.; the Philadelphia Society of Free Letts, 531 N. 7th St., Philadelphia, Pa.; the Latvian Center Gaŗezers, 57732 Lone Tree Road, Three Rivers, Mich.; the Union Latvian Ev.-Lutheran Church of Cleveland, 15120 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, Ohio; the Latvian Community Center, 1955 Riverside Dr., Los Angeles, Calif.; the Latvian Ev.-Lutheran Holy Trinity Church, 1853 N. 75th St., Milwaukee, Wis.; the Latvian Ev.-Lutheran Church of Minneapolis and St. Paul, 3152 17th Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn.; the Latvian Ev.-Lutheran Church of Northern California, 425 Hoffman Ave., San Francisco, Calif.; the Latvian Society of Washington, 11710 3rd Ave. N.E., Seattle, Wash.; and the Latvian Center, 1705 9th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, Fla.
- Venezuela at the Honorary Consulate-General of Latvia, Calle La Redoma, Prolongacion 4a Ave de Altamira Qta. La Reforma, Urb. La Castellana, Caracas.
To vote, one must be at least 18 years old and must come to the polling station with a valid Latvian passport.
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