Just 1,000 citizens abroad—less than half the number who voted at the beginning of the month—cast ballots in person or by mail in the Aug. 23 referendum on changes to Latvia’s pension law.
The referendum, which would have raised the minimum retirement benefit in Latvia to LVL 135 per month, failed by more than 105,000 votes. Across Latvia, polling stations reported relatively low turnout.
Provisional results reported by the Central Election Commission in Rīga also show low voter activity at the 47 polling stations that operated in 38 countries outside of Latvia. Two stations, in Kazakhstan and Portugal, reported no voters at all. The polling station in the Latvian Embassy in Beijing reported just one vote, despite the fact that a number of Latvian athletes and fans were still in China for the Olympics.
Of the 1,000 votes recorded abroad in the pension referendum, 92.3 percent were in favor of the amendments to the pension law. Overall, 96.15 percent of those who voted in Latvia and abroad supported the changes. But supporters needed at least 453,730 voters to cast ballots—half the number who participated in the last Saeima election—for the referendum to count.
Voters in Australia were the most active, casting a total of 158 valid ballots across the three polling stations in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, according to the Central Election Commission. But the most active single polling station abroad was the one in Dublin, the only one in Ireland, where Latvians cast 109 votes.
Besides Australia and Ireland, the most active countries outside Latvia were Sweden with a total of 98 votes cast, Russia with 69 (from four polling stations) and Canada with 55 (from two polling stations).
Latvians in the United States, who usually have been relatively active in Saeima elections and referendums, showed little interest in the pension issue and cast just 39 ballots at the polling stations in New York and Washington, D.C.
During the Aug. 2 referendum on constitutional amendments to give citizens the right to initiate a recall of the Saeima, a total of 2,315 ballots were cast abroad by mail or in person.
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