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.

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