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Latvia’s president promulgates Law on Dissolution of Riga City Council

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Riga City Council,dissolution, legislation, promulgation, Egils Levits

Latvia’s President Egils Levits

On Monday, 24 February, Latvia’s President Egils Levits promulgated Saeima’s approved Law on Dissolution of Riga City Council.

The law states that snap elections have to be organized within two months following the city council’s dissolution. This means snap elections may be organized on 25 April.

Following the city council’s dissolution, the reins over the capital will be taken over by an interim council, which will perform duties until the day a newly-elected city council gathers for its first meeting. The legislative draft mentions that members of the interim administration are picked based on their previous experience working in state administration, personal reputation and level of education.

Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s state secretary Edvīns Balševics will serve as the head of the interim administration. Finance Ministry’s Legal Department director Artis Lapiņš will serve as vice-chairman of the city council, and Justice Ministry’s Legal Department’s vice-director Aleksejs Remesovs will serve as a member of the administration.

The head of the interim council will perform the duties of the city council’s chairman, and the vice-chairman will perform duties of the vice-mayor. The member of the interim administration will perform duties of the head of committee. Wages paid to them will be equal to wages of actual city council chairman, vice-mayor and committee head.

Because no committees are planned to be composed within the interim administration, responsibilities will be divided among members of the interim administration.

The law states that snap elections are to be organized within two months after a city council’s dismissal. It is planned that snap elections in Riga will take place 25 April.

According to estimates from the Central Election Commission, snap elections may cost EUR 571 582.

The legislative draft on Riga City Council’s dismissal began its way through the Saeima in December 2019. In spite of the general positive position of the coalition, however, KPV LV ministers are against the city council’s dismissal, saying they do not agree with arguments regarding the existence of a waste management crisis in Riga.

The version supported by the government justifies Riga City Council’s dismissal with the local administration’s failure to perform one of its autonomous functions – ensure management of household waste.

Throughout its review in the Saeima opposition deputies have actively said waste management problems being used a reason to dismiss the city council was poorly explained and that this approach is more of the coalition’s attempt to settle the score with winners of past elections and it is intended to take over power in Latvia’s largest municipality. Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce was criticized for artificially blowing the waste management crisis out of proportion and using it as an excuse to dismiss the city council. VARAM and the minister’s arguments about Riga City Council’s dismissal failed to convince both the parliament’s opposition and Saeima’s lawyers, who pointed towards constitutional risks multiple times over the course of the law’s approval.

Although initially it was planned to dismiss Riga City Council earlier, the process tool longer because the opposition had initiated signature collection on the organization of a referendum. In spite of coalition parties denying coordinating amendments with Riga City Council’s dismissal law, the next city council will be elected for more than five-year term.

During one «pause», Riga City Council coalition partners – Harmony and Honour to Serve Riga – were split by a conflict. Then Oļegs Burovs was elected mayor. Conflicts continued until he and the opposition reached an agreement on three no-quorum meetings to secure legal reasons to initiate the city council’s dismissal.

The conflicts within Riga City Council, including between Harmony and Honour to Serve Riga started when once the mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs became a member of the European Parliament.

After Nils Ušakovs departure for Brussels, Burovs applied for the mayoral post. Dainis Turlais had initially become the new mayor, but he was forced to step down a mere three weeks later. Once Turlais had stepped down, Burovs took his place as acting chairman of Riga City Council. He was later approved officially.


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