Pension referendum falls far short of goal

Supporters of higher pension payments for Latvian retirees have fallen far short in their attempt to pass a national referendum, according to provisional results of the Aug. 23 vote.

With 984 of 998 polling stations in Latvia and abroad reporting just after midnight Rīga time, supporters were more than 100,000 ballots away from the minimum required to make the referendum count, according to results reported to the Central Election Commission. Provisional results show 344,767 ballots cast, but for the referendum to count at least 453,730 eligible voters—half the number of voters in the last Saeima election—had to participate.

Polling stations in Brazil, Canada and the United States were still open and would remain so until 10 p.m. local time.

The referendum asked whether voters wanted to amend the state pension law to increase the monthly retirement benefit to at least three times the minimum welfare payment. That would make the minimum pension payment LVL 135. Opponents, including government officials, said Latvia cannot afford higher pension payments.

Even though the referendum has failed, supporters may be pleased that more than 96 percent of those who did vote were in favor of the higher payments. If enough voters had participated, the referendum would have passed on a simple majority.

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

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