Local democracy under threat in Latvia

Local democracy under threat in Latvia

A new law, which is currently under discussion, will allow the government to replace the democratically elected mayor of Riga and the current city council with a caretaking administration until possible snap elections in May.

The attempt to suspend the democratically elected city council comes at a moment when the conservatives and the right wing are failing to form a government in Latvia after the last national elections.

The bill was drafted by a minister from the Latvian government following a decision at his party’s Congress. But ministers are trying to justify the introduction of this special law as a response to alleged corruption among local authority representatives in the Latvian capital.

The mayor of Riga and the majority in the city council are from the PES member party Saskaņa, which won 50.82% of the votes in the local elections a year ago. Saskaņa was the clear leader at the general election in October too, with 19.8% of the votes – more than 5% ahead of the next rival.

“It is unacceptable for the central government of any EU country to introduce a law that targets local government and local democracy. If there are corruption charges against members of the city council, or against the mayor, they should be put before a court.  This attempt to dismiss a whole city council and a mayor, who were elected with an overwhelming majority, raises serious concerns about democracy in Latvia” said Sergei Stanishev, President of the PES.

The PES will inform the Committee of the Regions about this obvious attempt to violate the rights of a democratically elected local authority under the guise of anti-corruption measures, which are politically motivated.