“No Crisis” in Latvia Despite Surprise Referendum

The decision of Latvian President Valdis Zatlers to dissolve parliament will not cause a constitutional crisis, legal advisers to the president said on Sunday (May 29, 2011) in the face of widespread political speculation in the Baltic country.

Speaking to journalists at a special briefing to outline the legal and constitutional implications of his decision, Zatlers’ team said talk of a political crisis ahead of a pending presidential vote was inaccurate.

‘This possible crisis situation is overestimated,’ Sandra Sondore-Kukule, a legal adviser to the president told the German Press Agency dpa.

‘The steps are very clear. There is a specific timeframe and procedure that must be followed… Things will go on in a normal, legal way,’ she said.

Late Saturday Zatlers announced he would call a referendum on dissolving the Saeima, or parliament, in the wake of a decision by members to block an ongoing anti-corruption investigation.

The referendum is likely to take place on July 30, though the exact date has yet to be set by the Central Electoral Commission. If Zatlers wins the referendum, fresh elections will take place up to two months afterwards.

Zatlers himself is one of two candidates for the next presidential term. Parliament is due to vote on this on Thursday.

Martins Kazaks, chief economist with Swedbank in Latvia, said there was very little risk that the complex political process would impact Latvia’s economy to a significant degree.

‘If a new parliament gets elected at the beginning of October there is still ample time to get the budget for next year together, so I wouldn’t see important risks there,’ he told dpa.

‘There may be some short-term impact, but those investors who are already here are used to this roller-coaster we have had for the last few years. Their experience will tell them that things are going to be sorted out and nothing bad is going to happen.’

Throughout Sunday, small groups of people gathered outside Riga castle to show their support for Zatlers’ unprecedented course of action.

Some wrote ‘We are with you, Valdis’ on the sidewalk while others sang Latvian folk songs.