Saeima speaker vacancy finally filled

Following a series of votes in Saeima on Wednesday that repeatedly failed to install a new occupant of the Saeima's speaker's chair over several hours – but which did manage to unseat the existing Speaker, Edvards Smiltēns (United List) – the vacancy was finally filled by Daiga Mieriņa of the Greens and Farmers' Union (ZZS). 

For a recap of the events earlier in the day see out previous story

After hours of unusually incisive and entertaining debate in the Saeima chamber which saw front-runner  Gunārs Kūtris (ZZS) and last-minute candidate Māris Sprindžuks (United List) both discarded, two new names were put forward: Mieriņa and Aleksejs Rosļikovs of the For Stability! party.

Members of the opposition National Alliance and United List parties argued that while they had no personal animosity towards Mieriņa she was a relatively little-known figure in parliament and time should be allowed for her views on a range of topics to be explored by public media, in the same way that Kūtris' candidacy had stumbled when he made controversial comments on Latvian Television and Latvian Radio.

However, calls for a pause of several days were rejected and the voting process proceded. 

In the fourth ballot of the day, Mieriņa prevailed with 55 votes for her and 34 against, while Rosļikovs trailed a distant second with 9 votes for him and 80 against.

Taking up her new position for the first time, Mieriņa thanked deputies for the honour and described her election as "a very unexpected turn in my life."

She warned deputies that they did not have long to prepare the budget for 2024 and expressed hopes that with hard work "society will be satisfied and there will not be pickets outside the Saeima building," adding that "My door will always be open to all deputies."

As is tradtional, she was presented with a bunch of flowers. Then, without further delay, she launched into the next item on the Saeima's agenda.

Daiga Mieriņa becomes Saeima speaker
Daiga Mieriņa becomes Saeima speaker

Who is she?

Daiga Mieriņa was born on March 3, 1969. She obtained a qualification as a horticulturist at the Agricultural University of Latvia, and has a master's degree in quality management at the Riga Technical University.

During her career, Mieriņa has also worked at the State Revenue Service as the chief specialist of the control department, and was a member of the Riga Planning Region Council. She also held positions in the Ministry of Finance, was a board member of the Vidzeme Tourism Association and the Association of Riga and Pieriga Municipalities. Since 2013, she has been a board member of the Latvian Farmers' Union.

She started her political career in 2001, when in municipal elections, she was elected to the Carnikava Parish Council from the association "For My Own Parish". After four years, she was elected to the council from the list of the People's Party, and in 2009 she was elected to the Carnikava County Council from the joint list of the Greens and Farmers Union, New Era and All For Latvia!. Mierina was elected as the chair of Carnikava county council and retained the position again in 2013, running in the municipal elections from the list of the Latvian Farmers' Union.

However, in 2015 Mieriņa was removed from the post of mayor of Carnikava with the support of nine deputies amid accusations of an authoritarian work style – though after less than a month, she was re-appointed. In 2017, Mieriņa was re-elected to the Carnikava County Council from the list of the Latvian Farmers' Union, and again became council chairperson.

In 2022, Mieriņa, running from the list of the Green and Farmers' Union, entered the 14th Saeima, where she headed the State Administration and Local Government Committee. Her rise from first-time deputy to Saeima speaker in well under a year is a rapid rise indeed.

Daiga Mieriņa becomes Saeima speaker
Daiga Mieriņa becomes Saeima speaker

What is her new job?

The Speaker of the Saeima (sometimes technically referred to as the Chairperson of the Saeima) is one of the highest state officials who represents the Saeima, presides over the Saeima sittings, ensures order during the Saeima sittings and ensures that the sitting takes place in accordance with the Saeima rules of order.

The Speaker of the Saeima presides over the sessions of the Presidium of the Saeima, as well as the sessions in which the members of the Saeima ask questions to the Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet of Ministers or the President of the Bank of Latvia on matters within the competence of these officials.

In the cases specified in the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia, the Speaker of the Saeima temporarily performs the duties of the President. This happens when, for example, the President is outside the country's borders or indisposed by serious illness.

The Speaker of the Saeima is also member of the National Security Council. The Council coordinates the unified state policy in the field of national security implemented by the highest state institutions and officials.

Another important duty of the Speaker of the Saeima involves diplomatic relations, both when meeting with high officials of other countries, delegations and foreign ambassadors, and also when visiting other countries on official or working visits representing Latvia.

In addition to the duties of his position, the Speaker of the Saeima also fulfills the duties of a regular deputy and participates in the work of the Saeima's commissions and subcommittees.

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