Law would bar dual citizens from high office

Legislation that would forbid persons with dual citizenship from holding high Latvian government posts has been sent for review by four parliamentary committees.

On a 61-29 vote, the Saeima on June 2 sent Bill 832 (titled “Par ierobežojumiem personām ar dubulto pilsonību ieņemt augstākos valsts amatus”) to the Legal Affairs Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee, and the Public Administration and Local Government Committee, according to the parliament’s Web site.

The proposed law offers 23 categories of high government posts in which dual citizens could not serve, including such posts as the president, members of parliament, the prime minister and other ministers, the president’s chief of staff, the head of the Bank of Latvia and members of its board of directors, the director of the state anti-corruption bureau, members of the National Radio and Television Council and Latvia’s ambassadors. Under the Latvian constitution, only the president is not allowed to be a dual citizen. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga had to renounce her Canadian citizenship in order to become president in 1999.

The bill does not prohibit dual citizens from being candidates for high government positions, but stipulates that if elected or appointed to such a position, he or she would have one month to renounce their non-Latvian citizenship.

After the renewal of independence in 1991, Latvia until 1995 allowed persons to reclaim citizenship based on pre-World War II documentation. As a result, thousands of Latvian exiles and their descendents became dual citizens, including many who had not been born in Latvia.

If approved, the law would go into effect July 1, 2005. Approval of the bill could affect several current officials, according to the LETA news agency, including Latvian and U.S. citizen Nils Muižnieks, who is minister for special assignments for society integration affairs; members of parliament Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš and Uldis Mārtiņš Klauss, both of the Jaunais laiks (New Era) party and both holding Latvian and U.S. citizenship; MP Liene Liepiņa of Jaunais laiks, who holds Latvian and German citizenship; and Jānis Kažociņš, head of the Constitutional Defense Bureau, who holds Latvian and British citizenship.

The legislation was proposed May 28 by members of Tautas partija (People’s Party). Members of Jaunais laiks, led by former Prime Minister Einars Repše, have suggested the proposed legislation is an effort by Tautas partija to replace Kažociņš as head of the Constitutional Defense Bureau or to throw a wrench in the effort to have Kariņš become prime minister.

To become law, the legislation would need to be approved through three readings in parliament and be promulgated by the president.

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 *