Saeima's first session an eventful one

The inaugural sitting of Latvia's 12th parliament or Saeima generated more than its fair share of interest Tuesday, with what is normally a purely ceremonial occasion descending into near farce at times.

The first highlight came when Artuss Kaimins, a colorful and controversial chat show host and actor displayed all his thespian talent with an impressively sonorous reading of the oath all lawmakers must deliver before taking up their seats.

With his rich voice echoing through the chamber, it was a shame the oath of allegiance wasn't longer than it is:

“I, upon assuming the duties of a Member of the Saeima, before the people of Latvia, do solemnly promise to be loyal to Latvia, to strengthen its sovereignty and the Latvian language as the only official language, to defend Latvia as an independent and democratic State, and to fulfil my duties honestly and conscientiously. I undertake to observe the Constitution and laws of Latvia."

It is usual for several lawmakers to stumble over the words due to nervousness or a less than perfect grasp of Latvian but on the whole they performed well with outgoing parliamentary speaker Solvita Aboltina only forcing in schoolmistress mode a handful to repeat the oath for some slip of the tongue.

A more serious altercation took place when newly-elected deputy Juris Vilums insisted on reading the oath in his native Latgalian language. He was reminded of the strict rules by Aboltina but continued in Latgalian whereupon Aboltina ruled that he could not sign in as a member of parliament. He was later reinstated by parliamentary committee.

Many parliamentarians were awaiting the oath of Harmony member Ivars Zarins with excitement. At the swearing-in of the 11th Saeima he became painfully tongue-tied, requiring seven attempts to deliver the text to the satisfaction of the speaker.

However, this time he sailed through at the first attempt to rapturous applause from colleagues.

Another lawmaker, Janis Junkers of Aboltina's 'Unity' party took the oath but then at the earliest opportunity a few minutes later announced - as had been widely predicted - that he was resigning his seat. That appeared to clear the way for Aboltina to take up his seat despite the fact she was not returned to parliament in the election after proving unpopular with voters.

Then confusion reigned as parliamentary committees considered Junkers' application to quit. The resumption of the parliamentary session was repeatedly delayed as members argued over the correct constitutional procedure.

Meanwhile, Latvian Radio's political reporter Ivo Leitans sensationally tweeted images apparently showing Junkers' resignation and Aboltina's acceptance of his seat had been prepared well in advance and pointed out that the application to lay down the mandate had been made too early - before it had even been taken up.

As a result, Junkers' application to quit was rejected - for a few hours - until he submitted a second request to leave the Saeima which was eventually accepted.

The small matter of electing a new speaker was eventually completed at 5pm with the job going to Inara Murniece.