In February this year, a majority of Saeima deputies approved laws that transform the ports of Rīga and Ventspils into state-owned companies. Opposition parties took the opportunity provided by the constitution to force the President to suspend promulgation of the law and try to hold a referendum on the issue.
As previously reported by LSM, to force a referendum 155,000 signatures needed to be collected. In order to allow the public to express a view on the matter 296 signature collection points were established, 31 of them abroad.
It was clear from the get-go that the participation of voters would be smaller than was required. Now, the official results are in.
7,215 signatures were collected. That is 0.47% of the eligible voters in the country and a paltry 4.7% of the 154,868 votes needed to hold a referendum.
Examination of the ballots concluded that 20 of the votes were submitted by persons without Latvian citizenship who were therefore ineligible to participate, 16 signatories could not be identified, and one person had not reached the age of 18. In another 16 cases, it was found that voters had signed more than once.
A total of 12 voters signed abroad. That means there were more than twice as many signature collection points abroad than people interested enough to show up at them.
The month-long constitutional administrative process is estimated to have cost 828,952 euros, of which 576,390 was required for the salaries of signature collectors and other officials. The final cost will be known after municipalities submit expense reports.
There was minimal campaigning on the issue by the politicians responsible for calling the referendum in the first place, and you don't need to be a political scientist to draw the conclusion that the whole thing was both a quirky example of democracy in action and a colossal waste of everyone's time and money.