Signature drive begins, aims at allowing recall of Saeima

In Latvia and abroad, a signature drive begins March 12 to demand the Latvian parliament accept proposed constitutional amendments that could allow a popular recall of the Saeima.

To succeed, the drive must gather at least 149,064 valid signatures of Latvian citizens, representing 10 percent of those who voted in the last parliamentary election, according to the Central Election Commission in Rīga.

Thanks to amendments to Latvia’s law on initiative and referendum that were adopted in February, citizens abroad will be able to add their signatures at Latvian embassies, general consulates or consulates in 33 countries. In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced March 7, the honorary consulates in the Australian cities of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney will be available.

The signature drive closes April 10.

If enough citizens sign on, the initiative will compel the Saeima to accept proposed amendments to Articles 78 and 79 of the constitution to allow voters to submit a draft resolution calling for the dismissal of parliament. If parliament alters or rejects the proposed amendments, a national referendum will have to be called.

The constitutional amendments, proposed by the Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia (Latvijas Brīvo arodbiedrību savienība), would allow for popular recall of the Saeima. Under current constitutional language, only the president can propose dissolving parliament. That leads to a popular referendum. If the referendum succeeds, parliament is dissolved and new elections are called. But if the referendum fails, the president must step down.

Opposition political party New Era (Jaunais laiks) is among supporters of the initiative and has started a month-long campaign titled “Tavas tiesības atlaist Saeimu” (Your Right to Dissolve Parliament).

The trade union proposed the constitutional amendment as part of a broader effort aimed at encouraging government reform.

A list of Latvian embassies, general consulates and consulates is available online from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by visiting Information about all locations for the signature drive in Latvia and abroad is available online from the Central Election Commission by visiting

In the United States, the Embassy of Latvia has announced that citizens also will be able to sign the initiative at the Latvian Ev.-Lutheran Church of Washington, D.C., 400 Hurley Ave., Rockville, Md. Signatures will be accepted in the church from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 30 and April 6.

In Canada, the Embassy of Latvia in Ottawa has announced additional hours at the Latvian Canadian Cultural Centre, 4 Credit Union Drive, Toronto. Signatures will be accepted in the cultural center from 8-10 a.m. April 5 and from noon to 2 p.m. April 6.

To be eligible to sign the initiative, citizens must be at least 18 years old and must bring with them a valid Latvian passport. Signatures must be made in person.

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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