Tag Archives: open vote

Latvia – President Egils Levits

The next President of Latvia will be Judge of the Court of Justice of the European Union – Egils Levits. The newly elected President will begin his term of office on 8 July 2019.

Egils Levits was elected in an open vote by the Parliament of Latvia in the first round of voting on 29 May 2019 with the backing of the ruling parliamentary majority. Following a constitutional amendment in January this year that changed parliamentary procedures for presidential elections from a closed to an open vote [see my previous post here], MPs cast their vote simultaneously for the candidates nominated for President using ballot papers.

There were three Presidential candidates – Judge of the Court of Justice of the European Union Egils Levits, Ombudsman Juris Jansons and MP Didzis Šmits. 8 MPs voted for Juris Jansons, 24 MPs supported Didzis Šmits, and 61 voted for Levits. In accordance with the revised Constitution of Latvia, Levits was elected president with a majority of not fewer than 51 votes.

This was the second time Egils Levits had been officially nominated for the post of president. Four years ago, Levits conceded to current State President Raimonds Vējonis (2015-1019) in the penultimate round of the Presidential election.

Newly elected President Levits has promised to be the President of all nationalities. He will represent both Latvians living in Latvia and those who live abroad. Levits has stressed that he will support greater solidarity in Latvia so that everyone can feel valued and belonging to the country.

Egils Levits was born in Riga in June 1955. He emigrated with his parents to Germany from the Soviet Union in 1972. In Germany, Levits obtained a degree at the University of Hamburg in law and political science. In 1990 he returned to Latvia and was one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence of Latvia. Levits was the Ambassador of the Republic of Latvia to Germany and Switzerland (1992-1993), Austria, Switzerland and Hungary (1994-1995); he was Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, and acting Minister of Foreign Affairs (1993-1994); he has served as Conciliator at the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration within the OSCE, and been a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration; and he was elected as Judge at the European Court of Human Rights in 1995, re-elected in 1998 and 2001. Egils Levits has numerous publications on constitutional and administrative law, law reform and European Community law. He was a Judge at the Court of Justice since 11 May 2004.

Levits has expressed his determination to promote necessary reforms in the country, even if they are unpopular. According to him, it is quite normal for political forces, groups or individuals to exercise their interests in a democracy. Levits has stated that supporting clarity of common interests is a very important task for the newly elected president.

In 2019, Levits published the book “Will of a state: Ideas and thoughts for Latvia 1985–2018”, a fundamental legal, political and moral reasoning regarding the existence, meaning and essence of the Latvian nation, on the relations of citizens with the state and successful governance. Levits states in his book: “For a nation to exist it must not only be aware of the past, but, above all, it needs the will to build the future. It is a common will.”

The 10th President of Latvia believes that “the work on Latvia’s statehood never ends. It is our duty to work and make sure our future generations inherit a strong, secure and green Latvia”. It is his declared intent to focus his presidency on these priorities.

Latvia – President will be elected by an open vote in 2019

This post is a follow up to the debate on how the Latvian president should be elected.

The next presidential election in Latvia will be held in June 2019. According to the Constitution, the President is elected by Parliament in a secret ballot by a majority of no fewer than 51 of the 100 members of Parliament.

The mode of election and the scope of the power of the President has been debated both during the first period of independence and since then, with many expressing the willingness for the direct election of the President.

Since June 2011, 11,004 people have signed the public initiative Manabalss.lv (My Voice) for a change to introduce a directly elected president.

Meanwhile, the debate about electing the president through an open vote rather than secret ballot has been going on. Since my previous post in July, 26 people (11 509 October 18 versus 11 483 July 4) have signed the public initiative to elect the State president by an open vote of no fewer than a 51-vote majority of the members of Parliament. This number was enough to initiate changes in legislation leading towards an open vote.

At the same time, on September 20 MPs supported the idea of five MPs from the Greens and Farmers Union about direct presidential elections. 70 MPs voted “FOR”, 15 “AGAINST” and two abstained. So far, several initiatives have been submitted to Parliament for a directly elected President, but the amendments have never been examined in a parliamentary commission.

On September 26, the Legal Commission of Parliament supported the amendment for the third reading on the open vote. The amendments were supported by parliament in the third (final) reading on October 4.

Constitutional changes require a two-thirds majority of the 100 deputies. 91 MPs were registered for the vote, with 85 MPs voting “FOR”, 3 voting “AGAINST”, and no one abstaining.

To make the process of openly electing the President in Latvia, it is also necessary to amend the Law on the Election of the State president and the Parliament Order Roll. Amendments to the Presidential Election Law are included in today’s (October 18, 2018) agenda of the Parliament sitting.

State president Raimonds Vējonis did not use his suspensive veto power after the adoption of the amendments to the Constitution and promulgated the law on October 16, 2018.

The changes to the Constitution will take effect on January 1, 2019.