Few citizens abroad sign initiative on constitutional amendments

Two weeks into an initiative that could lead to Latvian voters having the power to recall the Saeima, just 119 citizens abroad have added their signatures, according to the Central Election Commission in Rīga.

As of March 25 half of the locations abroad where citizens may sign onto the iniative had reported no activity, the commission’s statistics show.

Two weeks remain in the signature drive. By the April 10 deadline at least 149,064 valid signatures—a tenth of the total number of voters in the last parliamentary election—need to be gathered to compel the Latvian parliament to accept amendments to the constitution that would allow citizens a hand in dismissing the Saeima.

In Latvia, according to election commission data, a total of 45,773 signatures had been gathered by March 25. With the signatures from abroad added in, that means just 30.7 percent of the required names have been gathered for the initiative.

Latvian citizens abroad may sign the iniative at one of 40 embassies, general consulates or consulates in 33 countries. In Australia, citizens also may sign on at the honorary Latvian consulates in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.

But so far, activity has been low. Most active have been Latvians in Ireland. By March 25, a total of 32 had signed the initiative at the Embassy of Latvia in Dublin. Second-most active were Latvians in the United States and Australia. A total of 19 had signed at the Latvian embassy in Washington, D.C.—including a group that had traveled from Philadelphia. In Australia, 18 citizens had signed the initiative at the honorary consulate in Adelaide, while one had signed in Melbourne. The election commission had no information about activity in Sydney.

Totals for other countries include: Belarus, 3; Belgium, 8; Canada, 1; Czech Republic, 2; Denmark, 9; Finland, 1; France, 2; Germany, 10; Italy, 4; Israel, 2; Russia, 3; Sweden, 2, and the United Kingdom, 2.

No signatures had been recorded by March 25 in Austria, Azerbaidjan, China, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

One factor that may be affecting the signature drive abroad is that unlike in elections, few locations other than embassies or official consulates are available. During last year’s referendum on security law amendments, for example, voters in the United States had three spots where they could cast ballots: the embassy in Washington, in New York and in Indianapolis, Ind., where the 12th Latvian Song Festival in the United States was underway.

In addition, Latvian embassies, general consulates and consulates would have been closed for the Easter holiday.

Additional opportunities to sign the initiative have been organized in the United States and Canada. In the U.S., signatures will be accepted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 30 and April 6 in the Latvian Ev.-Lutheran Church of Washington, D.C., 400 Hurley Ave., Rockville, Md. In Canada, signatures will be accepted from 8-10 a.m. April 5 and from noon to 2 p.m. April 6 in the Latvian Canadian Cultural Centre, 4 Credit Union Drive, Toronto.

Information about all locations for the signature drive in Latvia and abroad is available online from the Central Election Commission by visiting www.cvk.lv.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *