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Wednesday 21.08.2019 | Name days: Linda, Janīna

Without sufficient reasons – problems outlined with Muižnieks non-approval as LU rector

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Indriķis Muižnieks.

Before the government can decide on Indriķis Muižnieks’ non-approval as rector of the University of Latvia, Education and Science Ministry needs to improve the order, as stated in State Chancellery’s statement on the ministry’s prepared draft order On LU Rector.

The State Chancellery notes that the Education Ministry’s draft order does not provide sufficient justifications to properly assess if committed violations are serious enough to have influenced results of elections.

«Considering the aforementioned, it is not possible to be certain that the uncovered violations had influenced the outcome of elections and that the results of elections did not reflect voters true (free) will. The draft order does not offer confidence that uncovered violations are serious enough to limit a person’s rights to stand candidate for the post of rector,» as explained in the State Chancellery’s statement.

Additionally, the chancellery points to the fact that certain conclusions made in the draft order are not backed by sufficient proof. For example, this applies to the claim that students of University of Latvia Medical College and University of Latvia Pauls Stradins Medical College are unjustifiably denied the right to participate on all levels of self-governing institutions.

The State Chancellery turns attention that it is not in the institution’s competence to assess the election of the rector of the University of Latvia, rather compile a report on Education Ministry’s draft order, which questions the legitimacy of results of the election.

The State Chancellery’s statement mentions that Education and Science Ministry’s prepared draft order does not offer sufficient justifications to make the decision.

«Education Ministry needs to supply more detailed justifications so that it is possible to assess if committed violations are serious enough to have influenced election results and that they do not reflect the true will of the Constitution Assembly. Also Education Ministry’s draft offers no assessment that uncovered violations are serious enough to have limited Muižnieks’ rights to stand candidate for the post of rector, as well as the government’s authority in approval of a new rector,» stresses the institution.

The draft order regarding Muižnieks as LU rector will be viewed by the government once Education Ministry has reviewed reports from the State Chancellery and Justice Ministry.

As reported, the first vote for Muižnieks was accompanied by a scandal and controversial evaluations. On 24 May, Muižnieks received 141 votes in his favour during a meeting of the LU Constitutional Assembly, whereas 143 voted against him. Muižnieks’ confirmation as elected caused a wave of confusion in society. A repeated vote was organized after, and Muižnieks won.

Education and Science Minister Ilga Šuplinska has said that her recommendation will be in favour of Muižnieks’ non-approval as LU rector. The final decision will be left in the hands of the government, which will be provided with Education Quality State Service’s report on uncovered violations.

Education Quality State Service’s head Inita Juhņēviča said the service inspection has uncovered flaws with the LU Constitution Assembly’s election procedure, lack of important documents governing the election process and failure to comply with deadlines.

The administration of LU notes that no violations of the Higher Education Institutions Law or any major violations of the LU Constitution have been found in the election process of the university’s rector. This position is also outlined in the response letter to Education Ministry on uncovered violations.

LU had also hired two independent sworn law firms to perform analysis of the election process and check the violations outlined by the ministry. Both PwC Legal and TGS Baltic found no violations that would prevent Muižnieks’ re-approval.

After the 12 August Coalition Cooperation Council’s meeting, parties forming the government in Latvia evasively commented the topic regarding election of the university’s rector but also noted the need for reforms in administration of higher education sector.

«New Conservative Party has asked to include this matter to the agenda of the government’s meeting as quickly as possible. If need be, new attorneys will be attracted and then have this matter discussed at the next government meeting. This matter cannot be slowed because LU is in dire need of a new administration. Postponing this matter would be considered unjustified,» stresses NCP representative Juta Strīķe.

Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said society’s attention is fixated on approval of a single rector. A bigger challenge is ensuring higher education serves students and the country.

«The system needs improvements. This is why the government has plans to improve the system. If one procedure [LU rector’s election] is not complied with, it is not as important. It is far more important to understand how it is possible to improve the higher education system as a whole. The plan is making sure the university’s administration is relieved enough to be able to sort out operations and teachers are able to do their jobs,» said Kariņš.

National Alliance’s representative Imants Parādnieks stressed that the most important issue is raising quality of higher education. Parādnieks adds that on 13 August conclusive assessments of LU rector’s election will be made by State Chancellery and Justice Ministry, which will be important from the perspective of political decision-making process.

«Conceptually speaking, we support Education and Science Ministry’s position,» adds Parādnieks.

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