Ministry will have trouble objecting to debate limit at Riga council

While opposition councilors in Riga are alarmed over the proposal, adopted on March 1, to limit the number of questions councilors can pose during meetings, the ministry governing municipalities has already allowed a similar thing to happen in Rēzekne, Latvia's east.

As reported, the proposal to limit councilors was fiercely debated with opposition deputies using what could be their last chance to ask as many questions as they'd like. This dragged the meeting to five a.m.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development (VARAM) says it will review the proposal and possibly object to it.

But minister Kaspars Gerhards (National Alliance) already says that the proposal, which would limit democracy within the council, "is not the best way".

"I think that the rights of the minority should be taken into consideration in the Riga City Council," he told Latvian Radio on March 1.

According to Gerhards, limiting the number of questions is a primitive and simplistic solution that interferes with the deputies' ability to represent their electorate.

Nevertheless, Gerhards' ministry accepted similar rules in Rēzekne, which saw the number of deputies' questions during debate reduced to three per person. At the time, Rēzekne opposition councilor Jāzeps Korsaks (independent) alarmed the public over the rules. But Gerhards says Rēzekne's deputies did not complain to the ministry about the rules.

Meanwhile the ministry's parliamentary secretary Jānis Eglītis (National Alliance) says Rīga's council is different from the others, for example, for its sheer magnitude. 

Late last year, the Daugavpils City Council also tried to limit deputies' rights to pose questions during debate, and the ministry objects to the proposal. 

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