Current News and Politics from Latvia

updated regularly!

Latvia News will give a short survey about current news from the Baltics. This little page shall be just a begin for a bigger homepage. Current informations is always given here!

Latvia in WTO New!
Coalition talks have begun New!
West and East praise referenda results New!
Results of the parliamentary elections!
Comment on the election results
Law on citizenship was changed
Interesting Links!

The World Trade Organization on 14 October unanimously voted to invite Latvia to join the organization, having agreed on the terms of membership.  Latvia will become the first Baltic country to become a member of the WTO. It will accede to the organization at the same time as Kyrgyzstan, which is the first CIS country to be invited to join. Renato Ruggiero, WTO director-general, commented that the two new members "are paving the way for the entire region."
Created 15.10.98
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It is still completely unclear who will form the new Latvian government and who will be elected prime minister. The liberal and second strong Latvian party "Latvia's Way" (LC) has started to negotiate with all other parties in parliament. TB/LNNK, the New Party (JP) and the Socialdemocrats declared that they would support Vilis Krisopans (LC, currently Minister of Transport) as prime minister. But the TB/LNNK leader Ginblats declared that he would like to see a "more flexible" person as prime minister.
Gundars Berzins, the generalsecretary of the strongest party the "People's Party" (TP) said, that he would like to see a coalition made of TP, LC and TB/LNNK with the leader of the TP, Andris Skele, as prime minister.
The Latvian president Guntis Ulmanis declared on 12th of October that the formation of a new government could finish even later as the 18th of November.
The Latvian-German Joachim Siegerist, leader of the right-populist People's Movement For Latvia, stated his intention to resign as party leader of his party. For Latvia only got 1.74 % and failed to clear the five-percent-threshold.
The chairman of the Latvian Christdemocrats/LKDS and Ministery of Defence Talavs Jundzis left his party. The electoral alliance "God, Nature, Work", which consisted of the Christdemocrats, the Green Party and the Labour Party, also failed with 2.30 %.
The leader of the Democratic Party Saimnieks (DPS) Ziedonis Cevers also step down as chairman of the DPS. In the elections of 1995 the DPS was the strongest party, now the left-leaning opportunistic DPS just gained 1,61 %. Cevers was a former Komsomol leader (Communist Youth) and Ministery of Interior Affairs.
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Russia, the EU, the OSZE and the USA praised in rare a event of unity the result of Latvian
referenda on citizenship. The deputy speaker of the State Department James Foley said:
"The law is an important and necessary step on Latvia's way to integrate itself fully in the European and Transatlantic structures. The speaker of the Russian Foreign Ministery, Vladimir Rachmanin, declared that this is the way how Latvia could win international prestige and normalize its relations
with Russia. Even the Russian KP-chairman Sjuganow said, that "it is better for Latvia to have
Russia as a friendly neighbour, than to violate the rights of our compatriots".
The German foreign minister Klaus Kinkel said that he believes in better Latvian-Russian relations
after the vote on citizenship.
Many observers In the west believe now that Latvia's chances to join the EU and NATO on the fast track are now growing.
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Party Number of Votes Percent (1995) 
72,67 %
Seats (Change) 
All  100
People's Party/TP 199.491 20.93 % (+20.93) 24 (+24)
Latvia's Way Weg/LC 173.636 18.22 % (+3.57) 21 (+4)
For Fatherland and Freedom/ TB/LNNK 134.843 14.15 % (-3.64*) 17 (-5) 
Nationl Harmony Party/TSP 135.628 14.22 % (+2.96**) 16 (+4) 
Socialdemocrats/LSDA 122.669 12.87 % (+12.87) 14 (+14)
New Party/JP 70.487 7.40 % (+7.40) 8 (+8)
Farmers Union/LZS 23.469 2.46 % (-3.68***) 0 (-7) 
God, Nature, Work 21.924 2.30 % (+2.30***) 0 (-8) 
For Latvia (Siegerist-Party) 16.552 1.74 % (-13.32) 0 (-16)
Saimnieks 15.380 1.61 % (-13.72) 0 (-18)
* For Fatherland and Freedom and LNNK candidated 1995 still seperatel: the results were  TB 11.62 % LNNK 6.17 %
** TSP candidated 1995 seperately from the Latvian Socialist Party, this time they formed a common electroral list:1995 TSP 5.61 % Socialists 5.65 %
***1995 formed the Latvian Christdemocrats/LKDS and the Farmers Union a common list, 1998 they candidated seperately, the Christdemocrats formed 1998 an electoral alliance with Labour Party and the Green Party (who 1995 formed an alliance with the LNNK) den Wahlblock "God, Nature, Work"

 All other parties stayed 1998 below one percent: Latvian Unity Party/LVP 0.52 %, Latvian Renaissance Party/LAP 0.52 %, National Progress Party 0.51 %, Latvian Nationaldemocratic Party (LNDP) 0.35 % Socialdemocratic Womens Union 0.34 %, Common Freedom of the People 0.32 % Conservative Party 0.26 %, Maras Land 0.23 %, Helsinki-86 0.22 %, Party of  Democrats 0.08 %, Latvian National Reformparty 0.05 %

´Preliminary Endresult of the Referenda:
Participation: 69.82 %
45,00 % Yes = for the lifting of the changes of the citizenship law
53,02 % No = for holding the changes
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One more time the Latvian party system completely changed. The strongest party of the last elections the Democratic Party Saimnieks (DPS) was pushed under 2%. The party of the former Komsomol leader Ziedonis Cevers left the political stage. The right-populist party of the Germen right-wing politician Joachim Siegerist also vanished.
The big winner of the elections was as predicted the People's Party TP of former prime minister
Andris Skele. Skeles party hold its founding congress just in May this year. It is likely that Skele will become prime minister. His party made an expensive campaign all over Latvia and their huge electoral posters dominated the streets.
The liberal, strongly pro-European Latvian Way (LC) improved, they are and will stay the centre of Latvian politics. LC will likely participate in the government. LC and TP are clearly pro-market reform and pro-western parties.
A bit disappointing were the results for the electoral union of the nationalconservative TB/LNNK of the current prime minister Guntars Krasts. After the successful collection of the signature for the citizenship referenda they hoped to increase their votes. Even more depressing for the TB/LNNK is the failure of the referenda.
The extreme-left alliance scored surprisingly well. TSP is an union of the national minority party TSP and the Socialists and the supporters of the orthodox-excommunist and ex-jailbird Alfreds Rubiks. TSP will be the loudspeaker of the Russian minority, especially the poorer part of the minority population and the few nostaltic pro-Soviet part of the population. In Riga and Latgale (the Eastern part of Latvia) they managed to become the strongest party. But it is questionable if the alliance will stay between the disparate groups of the union.
For the first time the strongest party of the pre-war era, the Socialdemocrats, will enter the Saeima.
The Socialdemocratic union LSDA of today is dominated by the left-populistic, post-communistic Democratic Work Party, whose leader is the former KGB-major Juris Bojars. Time will tell if the Socialdemocrats can establisg itself as a left party of the ethnic Latvian population.
New in parliament is the left-liberal New Party which was just formed this year by the famous Latvian composer Pauls. If the New Party will join a TP/LC government has to be seen.

All in all: the elections brought a change of parties in parliament, but there will be no change of policy. Latvia will continue the market reforms and the European integration. For the European integration the failure of the referenda in Latvia was more important than the elections. The abolishion of the naturalization windows is a big progress for Latvia. Even more important is that now all children born in Latvia after 1991 will get the citizenship. Now Latvia has one of the most liberal citizenship laws in Europe. So it will hardly be possible to attack Latvia for the mistreatment of minorities. The reduction of the number of parties in parliament from 9 to 6 is also one more step to stabilization and normalization.
All in all the results of the 3rd October were a victory of Latvia.
Created 4.10.98
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Law on Citizenship was changed

On the 22th of June 1998 the Saeima finally approved changes of the law on citizenship. The latvian parliament took into account the recommendations of the OSCE.
The former "naturalization windows", which regulated the naturalization in groups depending on the age and the place of birth of the applicant, are abolished. Now every applicant, who is fullfilling the preconditions of the naturalization (Five Years living in Latvia, knowledge of the latvian language, basic knowledge of the latvian history and constitution and an oath of loyalty to the latvian state) can immediately apply for citizenship. Just one third of the soviet (mostly russian) settlers, who came to the country after the soviet occupation in 1941/1945 has the latvian citizenship. The ethnic latvian population is numbering  just 54 % of the total population of Latvia.

All persons, who were born in Latvia after the reestablishment of independence in 1991, will now automatically receive the latvian citizenship without conditions. The European Union, the OSZE, the Council of Europe and the USA were very content with the changes of the law. The USA promised Latvia one halve million US-dollars for the support of the implementation of the changed law. Russia sees the law as "undemocratic" and is not satisfied with the changes.

In Latvia itself there is also resistance against the changes. The government party TB/LNNK and the right-wing "Latvijai" are against the law. They initialled a campaign for a public referenda on this question. Ironically the changes were proposed by prime minister Guntars Krasts who is a member of the TB/LNNK.

INTERESTING LINKS (Sites are all in latvian and english)
Latnet: Welcome to Latvia, Index of WWW-Servers in Latvia, with many links
Saeima: the latvian parliament
Minstery of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia
Latvian President

 Page updated on 14.10.1998. Author: Thomas Schmidt M.A.

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