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Wednesday 22.01.2020 | Name days: Austris

Committee’s talks about electing Riga City Council for more than five years; decision postponed

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Riga City Council, election, regulations, Saeima, amendments After lengthy and heated discussions on Tuesday, 10 December, Saeima’s Public Administration and Local Government Committee decided to continue discussing amendments that would allow Riga City Council composed in snap elections to function for longer than five years.

Amendments were proposed by coalition deputies.

Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce’s advisor Valdis Verners welcomed the proposal to adopt changes, adding that the Constitutional Court has found that Saeima has a large degree of freedom in regulating the municipality’s election order.

Verners referenced what constitutional rights expert Edgars Pastars said – that election of an administration to 15 months would not be the most democratic decision. Similarly, Justice Ministry’s representative said big municipalities have to make important political decisions. This is why the existing 15 months are not appropriate for the administration’s work.

Considering the EUR 1.6 million costs for Riga City Council elections, it would be wasteful to organize two elections within a short period of time, said Verners.

Pūce’s advisor said that now that this topic is more apparent, it should be added that the administration should work for less time if it is elected.

Deputy Sergejs Dolgopolovs asked why this topic was not first discussed by Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry. Discussions about the goal of objectives took place during the committee’s meeting between Regīna Ločmele-Luņova and Daniels Pavļuts.

Riga City Council’s executive director Juris Radzevičs said securing objectivity has been a long-discussed topic. At the time, the proposal suggested allowing courts to review matters regarding dismissal of municipal administration if such a need appears. He says even now such topics should be decided by a court.

Radzevičs notes that games with terms do not contribute to judicial certainty, because terms can be used for political benefits in the future. Saeima deputy Uldis Budriķis asked after his colleague was done talking if Radzevičs presented his points as an executive director or on behalf of political party Honour to Serve Riga.

KPV LV Saeima faction’s vice-chairman Ēriks Pucens proposed postponing decision-making for a week. Opposition deputies Karina Sprūde, Ločmele-Luņova and Sergejs Dolgopolovs supported this proposal. No decision was made in regards to when the committee will decide on legislative drafts.

Ločmele-Luņova said amendments would impact Latvia’s democratic structure, adding that rushed decisions would be negative. The deputy also invited asked the Constitutional Court to provide an opinion.

Read also: Environment Protection Minister to request Riga City Council’s dismissal

Dolgopolovs said democracy starts from below – it is people’s power. He said there are negative examples found in the work done by every city council, and Riga City Council is no exception. Problems with management mean a shortage of good management in the country, because it was possible to resolve the problem on a national level, explained the deputy. He also outlined the opinion of allowing the court to review decisions regarding dismissal of city council.

The representative of Latvia’s Large Cities Association says necessary changes should be viewed more widely.

Central Election Commission’s chairperson Kristīne Bērziņa says it is not good practice to change regulations prior to possible elections. She said if municipal elections do not happen in Riga in 2021, there is a possibility that Riga residents, complying with law conditions for ties with another municipality, will be able to vote in a different municipality. The topic of Riga’s residents having two votes caused discussions during the committee’s meeting.

Deputy Sprūde said amendments are proposed in relation to the plan to dismiss Riga City Council and organize snap elections. This much was said by the committee’s head Inga Goldberga.

Because of intense use of the tribune and the shortage of time, Latvia’s President Egils Levits’ advisor for legal policy issues Jānis Pleps was not able to take the stand.

Previously before the meeting of the coalition, explaining the need for amendments, Attīstība/Par! co-chairman Daniels Pavļuts invited not discussing amendments automatically in association with Riga, because they would apply to all emergencies in all municipalities. New regulations will apply to the situation in Riga if it is adopted before snap elections, said Pavļuts.

The new regulation would be more appropriate because otherwise Riga City Council will be managed by administrators for 15 months or the city council will be re-elected only until June 2021, said the AP politician.

He stressed that election for the pre-election period would not be an appropriate solution.

New Conservative Party’s Saeima faction leader Juta Strīķe had previously said that she stands in favour of such changes. Electing Riga or any other city council for one year means there will be a pre-election, post-election and then pre-election period again. The politician outlined that under the current regulation, elected deputies will have to think ahead to the next elections. Additionally, there would be more expenses to accommodate the 2021 elections.

National Alliance’s politician Jānis Iesalnieks mentioned on Monday after the coalition’s meeting that in a situation when Riga was being robbed for a decade, it is likely there is no super team that would resolve the situation within a year’s time.

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