Ventspils bigwig loses human rights appeal

Aivars Lembergs, widely regarded as one of Latvia's chief oligarchs, has had his appeal to the European Court of Human rights booted into touch.

Aivars Lembergs, widely regarded as one of Latvia's chief oligarchs, has had his appeal to the European Court of Human rights booted into touch.

Lembergs is a politician and businessman. He is the leader of the political party “For Latvia and Ventspils” (“Latvijai un Ventspilij”) which is part of the Greens and Farmers Union political grouping, in which he is regarded as something of a grey eminence, having previously been its candidate for Prime Minister on several occasions. 

He has has been the chairperson and self-styled mayor of Ventspils City Council since 1988.

On 14 March 2007 Lembergs was charged with bribery, money laundering, unlawful participation in property transactions and providing false information in his tax return. Remarkably, the subsequent court case has yet to reach a conclusion and has provided no restraint on his participation in politics at national as well as local level.

On 13 August 2007 a prosecutor imposed a security measure on Lembergs prohibiting him from holding office as the chairperson of Ventspils City Council. He challenged this security measure which the Kurzeme Regional Court upheld by a final decision of 22 February 2008.

Subsequently, on 19 August 2010, 7 May 2012, 30 June 2014, 16 May 2016 and 11 January 2017 Lembergs requested the Riga Regional Court to revoke the security measure imposed. All of these requests were dismissed.

Despite this prohibition, Lembergs has been repeatedly elected to Ventspils City Council and chosen to be its chairperson. He even shrugged off an order by then regional affairs minister Edmunds Sprudzs removing him from office and carried on acting as mayor de facto if not de jure.

The most recent municipality election took place on 3 June 2017. The applicant’s party won by 62.13%, and Ventspils City Council elected him as the chairperson yet again.

Lembergs complained to the ECHR under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 about his inability to hold the position of chairperson of Ventspils City Council after being elected. 

However, in a decision released 11 October, the ECHR unanimously rejected his application as inadmissable for the simple reason that chairpersons of local municipalities are not included in the definition of what constitutes the legislature in Latvia.

Nevertheless, Lembergs continues to hold weekly press conferences in which he holds forth about issues of the day in a grand manner. In this week's episode, following a collapse in the Greens and Farmers Union vote in Saeima elections, he placed the blame on the shoulders of Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis, claiming the party had never wanted him in the first place.

Lembergs is also encouraging people to wear baseball caps with the slogan "Make Latvia Great" printed on them, in what appears to be a sad attempt to ape the strategy employed by U.S. president Donald J. Trump.

There is little evidence of people wearing such caps and they continue to adorn Lembergs' weekly tirades from Ventspils which are posted on the official municipal YouTube channel.

 

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