Saeima prefers secret ballot to select President

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Saeima was unable Thursday to finish its vote on constitutional amendments that would have changed the parliamentary selection and approval of a presidential nominee from a secret to an open ballot. While the issue was postponed for another hearing at the next plenary session, it has prompted the Greens and Farmers Union to question the stability of the coalition agreement.

Opposed to the National Alliance’s surprise constitutional amendment were the Greens and Farmers Union, Harmony and For Latvia From the Heart, who together came up with one vote more than those in favor. Yet the National Alliance, Unity and Regional Alliance called for a  revote, which then fell apart due to the lack of a quorum in the hall, prompting Speaker Ināra Mūrniece to call a break, after which Saeima moved on to the next agenda item.

Thus the unresolved matter was rescheduled to the agenda of the next plenary session.

In the past, the Latvian lawmakers had often dodged questions about their support to this or that candidate to a high office in a parliamentary vote but Murniece said she wanted to look the voters in the eye and substantiate her decision to vote for the particular presidential candidate.      

"I hope very much that my fellow lawmakers would think hard about it, discuss the subject with their electorate and listen to their voters. I also hope that voters would make their opinion known to the lawmakers,” the parliament speaker said.

Next week the parliament will have to make the final decision regarding the draft Constitutional amendments proposed by the National Alliance to have the Latvian president elected in an open parliamentary vote.

Inguna Sudraba of For Latvia From the Heart explained her party’s objections to the NA’s proposed amendment: “We believe Saeima should be working on a package of amendments regarding the election of the President. There’s no need for additional initiatives that divert parliament from the work it’s supposed to be doing,” she said.

On his part, Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs tweeted during the Saeima session that the amendment was an attempt by “Unity and the National Alliance trying to topple the Straujuma government.”

Similarly, Greens and Farmers Union leader Augusts Brigmanis remarked that the vote had “given the signal that the coalition agreement is effectively not in force.”

However, Solvita Āboltiņa of Unity disagreed that voting on a constitutional amendment should be seen as a threat to the coalition. “The coalition has enough important issues to resolve,” she said.

The next presidential elections are set to take place this summer, after the term of Andris Bērziņs ends on July 8.

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