Voters failed Aug. 2 to pass a referendum on constitutional amendments that would have allowed citizens to initiate a recall of the Latvian parliament. However, some politicians appear rattled enough by the results that they themselves are now calling for changes, according to media reports.
Latvians in Ireland, who in the past have been criticized for their seeming lack of political involvement, pushed Dublin to the No. 1 spot in terms of turnout among the 47 polling stations abroad.
Supporters of the referendum fell almost 10 percentage points short of their goal. Half of Latvia’s more than 1.5 million eligible voters had to vote in favor of the referendum for it to become law. Provisional results reported Aug. 3 by the Central Election Commission in Rīga showed turnout at 41.5 percent, with those voting in favor representing 40.16 percent of all eligible voters.
Among those voting, however, the result was overwhelmingly in favor of the amendments, suggesting a deep dissatisfaction with the government. Overall, 96.75 percent voted “yes” on the referendum.
Aigars Kalvītis, former prime minister and leader of the People’s Party (Tautas partija), told the newspaper Diena that his and other ruling coalition parties now will have to work with opposition parties to find a compromise on constitutional changes.
Meanwhile, the opposition party New Era (Jaunais laiks) urged President Valdis Zatlers to call for a dismissal of parliament, according to media reports. Under current constitutional language, that would put into motion a national referendum. If such a referendum succeeds, the Saeima is considered dissolved and new elections are scheduled. But if it fails, the president has to step down.
The constitutional amendments would have added language allowing for a citizen initiative to call for the parliament’s recall, thus sparing the president of the risk.
Zatlers, in an Aug. 3 press conference in Rīga, said he will not call for the dismissal of the Saeima. But he will call a special session of the parliament and will present draft legislation to amend the constitution to give citizens the right to initiate recall of the Saeima.
The vote abroad
Provisional results from polling stations outside Latvia showed turnout, by mail and in person, at 2,315 voters.
The most active polling station abroad was the Latvian embassy in Dublin, Ireland, with a total of 303 ballots cast, according to the Central Election Commission. London was second with 202 voters and Toronto, with 161, was third. Brussels, Stockholm, Melbourne, Tallinn, Moscow, Adelaide and Washington, D.C., rounded out the Top 10.
Australia, Belarus, Canada, Germany, Russia and the United States each had more than one polling station, but did not necessarily translate into more voter activity. Ireland still proved to have the greatest number of valid ballots. Australia, with a total of 227 valid ballots from polling stations in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, was second. Canada had 203 valid ballots from polling stations in Ottawa and Toronto. The United Kingdom ranked fourth. And Russia was fifth with 153 valid ballots recorded at polling stations in Kaliningrad, Moscow, Pskov and St. Petersburg.
Voters in the United States cast 78 valid ballots in Washington, D.C., and 67 in New York.
Voters in Germany cast 71 valid ballots in Berlin and 18 in Bonn.
In Belarus, a total of 19 valid ballots were cast in Minsk, but just 3 were recorded in Vitebsk.
Many polling stations reported just a handful of voters. The polling station at Astana, Kazakhstan, recorded zero votes.
As with the overall results, voting abroad showed strong support for the referendum. Only the five voters in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, turned the tables, splitting 3-2 against the constitutional amendments. The four voters in Cairo, Egypt, evened out at 2-2.
(Updated with final provisional results.)
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