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Tuesday 23.01.2018 | Name days: Strauta, Grieta
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Opinion: candidates of the last presidency have all been intellectually weak

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUOne of this summer’s hottest and most discussed piece of news was the proposal to allow residents to elect the country’s president. Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis’ 22 June speech to the parliament, in which he proposed allowing the people to elect the president in 2019, caused even more discussions.

BNN has compiled opinions of multiple publicly well-known people on this matter.

When asked about the idea of a president elected by the people in Latvia, Skaidrite Lasmane, leading researcher of Social Science Faculty of the University of Latvia, said: «I think it would be better waiting a bit longer for society to get used to democracy.»

Continuing the conversation, Lasmane admits being sceptical of a future in Latvia where the president is elected by the people: «I would support a president elected by the people more than I would the last weak and intellectually weak presidents».

Lasmane is also harsh towards Latvia’s current president: «I would go as far to say that our current president is also intellectually weak, as were the two that came before him. They were unable to offer a single worthwhile project or form a correct sentence properly. A president should be clever, like Vaira Vike-Freiberga was.»

The best associations for a proper president Lasmane recalls from Vaira Vike-Freiberga, saying that she was a proper, clever and capable president. «She was notable. She was visually, intellectually and emotionally welcoming. She remains in my memory as a capable president. On top of that, she was in power when Latvia was going through complicated projects, like entry into NATO and the EU.»

As for the current situation, Lasmane has several rhetorical questions: «The current president takes part in all public events, all theatre premiers, he is everywhere. But what is the result? What changes? How does that affect society?» asks the professor.

At the end of the spring session of the Latvian Saeima, Vejonis told deputies that residents have been dissatisfied with the standing state administration structure. Vejonis suggested improving this situation by expanding the president’s authority, as well as giving the prime minister wider authority over the government formation process.

Addressing deputies, Vejonis said: «We could achieve that if the Saeima approved the prime minister, and the president approved chosen ministers. Also the president could be given the right to initiate extraordinary Saeima meetings not just for referendums and Saeima’s dissolution. Such an expansion of authority would require having the president be elected by the people.»

Prof. Ojars Skudra of Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Latvia, said the following after the president’s speech: «President Raimonds Vejonis is wrong if he thinks a president elected by the people would help raise public trust in the government.»

«I am in favour of having a president elected by the people because the fact that our country’s president is elected by a handful of Saeima deputies is not exactly a procedure that inspires confidence in the integrity of those people. But in this case it would necessary to establish a law that would regulate the election procedure, and this would require serious changes in the Constitution,» said the expert.

Skudra does not believe such changes would be possible in the next year’s Saeima elections. The proposal, he says, will likely die on its own, as the political climate is not favourable for it. He said it is hard to predict who would benefit from this.

Martins Bondars of the Latvian Association of Regions also shares his opinion on having a president elected by the people. He is positive about this matter: «The people should be the ones to pick the person to represent Latvia, pick the prime minister and lead the National Security Council.»

Still, Bondars is confused by Vejonis’ proposal to entrust this matter to the Saeima: «This matter cannot be directed to the Saeima, a place in which we often see something similar to a political market. There is enough time for us to organize a people’s election of the president,» Bondars told BNN.

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