The society of Latvia is very active and has enormous potential and power that should be made use of, Jānis Erts, author of the public initiative platform ManaBalss.lv (My Voice) admits in an interview to the business news portal BNN.
The idea to create the platform originated about a year ago. I myself worked in the advertising industry, while my colleague Kristofs Blaus – at an information technology company. At that time, we felt helpless to influence the ongoing events in Latvia. So we started to think how to change this, Erts says.
He points out political participation is very complicated in Latvia. Before launching our project we had to go somewhere and keep track of large amount of information, looking into several cases. We recognize that people do not want to spend too much time on this. Ideally, it would be good to check a news portal in the morning, read about ideas and initiatives, whose inclusion on the Saeima agenda can be attained by one’s individual participation, the platform creator points out.
At the moment, Latvia residents’ participation in political process is at a very low level. However, looking at other countries, the correlation between the state’s GDP figures and population’s activity in political processes is clearly visible. Erts believes Latvia’s society is very active, as evidenced by annual Big Spring Clean-ups and nation-wide charity campaigns. So, this potential should be used, he adds.
The project developers considered several options regarding authorization and identification. However, at the end they realized it was not necessary to reinvent the wheel and decided to make use of online banking services for identity confirmation of each voter.
Initially, we negotiated with SEB, Swedbank and Krājbanka. Overall, the banks were forthcoming indeed. Later, Citadele and Nordea Bank’s clients themselves required the option to connect to this project. There are ongoing negotiations with DnB Nord as well. All banks offer us this opportunity free of charge, Erts recognizes, adding that presenting this idea to banks was quite difficult, since such a project cannot be found elsewhere in the world.
The initiative to the platform ManaBalss.lv can be submitted by any resident of Latvia. The only criteria for ideas selection are legal conditions: firstly, the initiative should comply with the Constitution (if not, amendments to the Constitution should be proposed). Secondly, the proposal should be enforceable at the state institutions. The author of the initiative can use the opportunity to seek advice from the site’s experts and then decide whether to take into account their recommendations.
Erts also clarified the proposal promotion procedure. If 10 000 signatures, are collected the initiative is included on the Saeima agenda. The Saeima submits it to committees, who should review the received proposal within a month, possibly, introducing some changes. The proposal is then examined by the Saeima.
One of the initiatives has already gathered large public support. The proposal for offshore opening gathered the required number of signatures within a week and on June 21, the Saeima voted on the amendment adoption at the first reading. The amendments stipulate imposing an obligation on companies with at least 25% owners «hidden» at offshore firms’ mailboxes to reveal the real beneficiaries.
Typically, such initiatives may be put forward for review at the Parliament in about one and half year’s time in the best case. In this case, the proposal was submitted to the Saeima within a week, showing that the society has power. We launched ManaBalss.lv 2-3 weeks ago and our development rates are impressive. Three days after starting work the President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers joined us as well, Erts says.