Latvian President to Move to Dissolve Parliament

Riga – Latvian President Valdis Zatlers said Saturday (May 28, 2011)he would launch the process of dissolving the country’s parliament, a little over seven months after parliamentary elections.

Speaking in an extraordinary live address to the nation, an emotional Zatlers said it was time to put a ‘full stop’ to the political manipulations of vested interests.

The current legislature had become characterised by ‘political scheming, lies and an atmosphere of impunity,’ Zatlers said, explaining the reasons for his decision.

Zatlers’ move threatens to plunge the Baltic state into a constitutional crisis just as a parliamentary vote to choose a new president is due to take place June 2. Zatlers is one of two candidates in contention.

According to the Latvian constitution, the president has the ability to launch a referendum on whether the Saeima, or parliament, should be dissolved. If the public opposes his initiative in the referendum, Zatlers will have to step down.

Zatlers’ gamble follows a series of raids by anti-corruption officers earlier this week targeting a wide range of political and business figures known as Latvia’s ‘oligarchs.’

However, in a vote on Thursday, the Saeima refused to waive parliamentary privilege to allow law enforcement officers access to the home of Ainars Slesers, one of the country’s wealthiest men and a sitting member of parliament.

The vote gave a signal that the virtuous and not-so-virtuous members of parliament had started cooperating, Zatlers said in his speech Saturday, in an apparent reference to the two-party ruling coalition which split on the vote.