Saeima debating dissolution of Rīga City Council, more port law changes

An extraordinary session of the Latvian parliament, the Saeima, was been called for December 18 as the government continues its push to dissolve Rīga City Council over what it says is chaotic mismanagement of the capital city. 

Nor was it to prove the last act of an unsual day in the Saeima chamber.

The session started at 12:00 Rīga time with the draft “Riga City Council Dismissal Law” the only item on the agenda of the extraordinary meeting. Usually, Saeima sits on Thursday, not Wednesday. 

The proposed draft law was submitted to the Saeima by the Cabinet of Ministers, and the Saeima quickly decided on its referral to the relevant parliamentary commission.

As demonstrated with a law to take control of the ports of Rīga and Ventspils last week, the goverment has the ability and willingness to push legislation through at break-neck speed at the moment and it views the situation in Rīga as a matter of some urgency, too. However, it remains to be seen how quickly the matter of Rīga City Council can be dealt with and will also depend upon how determined is the opposition from non-governmental parties. 

The legislation accuses Rīga City Council - for a long time controlled by non-government parties Harmony and onor To Serve Rīga - of failures in areas such as trash collection and is highly critical of officials and structures used to manage municipal responsibilities.

If eventually passed into law, it would mean new, extraordinary municipal elections in Rīga, even though scheduled elections are due to take place in 2021. Those elections would take place two months after the law came into force, according to the annotations attached to the text.

Government parties are pressing ahead with the drive to unseat the council despite a recent statement from the State Chancellery warning that it required further clarification to answer several legal and constitutional questions.

Meanwhile Rīga City Council itself called an extraordinary meeting to discuss the waste collection situation in the city.

No sooner had the session got under way and the law was referred to the Saeima's Budget and Finance (Tax) Commission than a second extraordinary sitting was added to the ageda to follow directly after the first - a return to the very Law on Ports that was amended at such lightning speed last week.

Nor was that the end of a frantic day in the chamber with a third extraordinary session of the day due to start at 17:20 to push through the second reading of the Ventspils port legislation.

Opposition deputies were stong in their criticism, with Harmony member of parliament Ivars Zariņš saying the railroading of legislation was "reducing the function of the Saeima to an approval button."

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