Vejonis surprised at lukewarm response to elected president plan

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Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis has been surprised by the turnabout of the political parties regarding his suggestion to change the presidential election procedure, replacing a parliamentary vote with a popular public vote, reported LETA.

He said that all the time the politicians had been speaking loudly about the need for a popularly elected Latvian president but when he actually came forth with the proposal the parties did a turnabout and started speaking of geopolitical risks, Vejonis said in a July 7 interview to SestDiena, a weekly supplement to the Diena daily.

It is surprising, considering that most parties had included a popular presidential vote in their political programs, the Latvian president said, urging the politicians to make up their mind on the subject.

Commenting on the remarks by the lawmakers from the opposition left-wing pro-Russia Harmony party that, if the people got to elect the Latvian president, the Harmony's leader and Riga Mayor, Nils Usakovs would become the next Latvian president, Vejonis said it depended on the voters.

"If the voter activity is low, the candidates backed by the Harmony have better chances because the party's electorate is more consolidated and participates in the elections more actively while the pro-Latvian electorate tends to find different excuses for not voting. Then there is a risk therefore we, the voters, have to be active," the Latvian president said.

As reported, President Vejonis on June 22 called on the Latvian parliament to pass legislation allowing the people to elect the Latvian president directly already in 2019. He urged the lawmakers not to hesitate and to start the adoption of the necessary amendments to the Latvian Constitution already this fall.

Under the current system, the president is elected by parliamentary vote - but that vote is secret and Saeima deputies have no obligation to reveal which candidate they supported. Tallying up the results of previous votes has shown that it is not uncommon for lawmakers to lie about who they backed even when they do make a public declaration on the subject.

However, rather than offering that the lawmakers should be made accountable for their decision with an open vote, Vejonis has suggested a popularly-elected president might be the answer - though such a major amendment to Latvia's founding constitution is likely to prove a time-consuming and legally complex business.

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