Latvia’s parliament on Wednesday approved the Baltic country’s new five-party, center-right coalition government, nearly four months after a general election, breaking the deadlock on the formation of a Cabinet in the small nation’s highly fragmented political scene. In a 61-39 vote, the 100-seat Saeima legislature gave the green light to Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins’ majority government. The broad-based coalition is made up of five of the seven parties represented in the parliament which agreed earlier Wednesday on a deal.Full Article: Latvia gets 5-party govt nearly 4 months after election - The Washington Post.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of Latvia.
Latvia’s state security service the Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB) said October 8 that Russia has in the past launched several cyber-attacks against Latvia. In a rare statement posted to its website, SAB said that like the Netherlands – which recently went public with claims it had been subjected to cyber-attacks from the Russian Federation – Latvia too had been targeted several times, naming Russia’s GRU military intelligence service specifically as the perpetrator. “The cyber attacks in Latvia were carried out by the GRU for espionage purposes, and the most frequent attacks were directed against state institutions, including the foreign and defense sectors. Rarely, attacks were targeted at private companies, including the media. The essence of cyber-attacks carried out by GRU is to enter an information system, operate in it unnoticed, and obtain long-term data from the system – for example, regular access to e-mail correspondence and documents processed at the workstation,” SAB said.Full Article: Russia launched cyber-attacks against Latvia, claims security service / Article / LSM.LV.
Countering attempts by Russia and other actors to meddle in the democracies of other countries requires more than just stronger cyber defences and better election monitoring, Latvia’s deputy minister of defence said Thursday. It also demands stronger societies and better-informed citizens able to withstand an onslaught of disinformation, rumours and outright fabrications, said Janis Garisons in an interview Thursday with CBC News. Latvia, which has faced cyber attacks on its infrastructure and frequent disinformation campaigns for years, has learned a lot about how to protect itself, said Garisons. “Without general resilience in the long term, I think it will be very difficult to resist,” he said.Full Article: How do you Russia-proof an election? Educate your voters, says Latvian official | CBC News.
A nondescript office in Riga’s communist-era Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science may be Latvia’s last line of defense against threats to next month’s general election. There, the nation’s 29-strong CERT cyber-security group is bracing for its biggest test to date: repelling attempts by Russia to sway the voting process. Having studied meddling in the U.S. and fellow European Union members like Germany, the team is schooling state employees on suspicious emails and website links that could be phishing attempts, all the while receiving “threat feeds” from NATO and allied countries. Elsewhere, the government is working with Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. to stem the spread of fake news. Ballots at the Oct. 6 vote will be scanned electronically and can be counted by hand, should concerns arise at any precinct, adding an extra layer of security.Full Article: Hacks, Phishing and Fake News: How to Russia-Proof an Election - Bloomberg.
Latvia is investigating whether its banks acted as conduits for Russian funds used to interfere in elections and politics elsewhere, after it received a warning from the United States, officials have told Reuters. The allegations, which highlight the country’s role as a stepping stone for Russian money on its way to the west, come after Latvia’s third largest bank was shut in February after being accused by the United States of money laundering. Foreign affairs minister Edgars Rinkevics told Reuters that citizens from Russia and former Soviet states, including people subject to U.S. sanctions, had put money in Latvian banks and some of it may have been used for political manipulation.Full Article: Exclusive: Latvia probes whether Russian money flows used to meddle in Europe | Reuters.
The tiny country of Latvia can teach the United States a few things about how to counter Russian meddling in politics. One important lesson from Russian efforts to exacerbate ethnic conflict, spread disinformation and possibly compromise Latvian officials is that Russian methods keep changing, according to advice from Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs. “When it comes to the use of information as a weapon or propaganda, Russia does not have an approach that one size fits all,” Rinkēvičs told USA TODAY on Wednesday. “There are different ways of conducting political meddling and also during political elections.” Rinkēvičs was in Washington for meetings to prepare for an April 3 summit with President Trump and the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.Full Article: Tiny Latvia can teach the U.S. a lesson or two on Russian meddling.
Latvia: Constitution Protection Bureau: e-voting to create security risks in Latvia | The Baltic Course
Introducing an electronic voting system in Latvia would create security risks, Janis Maizitis, Chief of the Constitution Protection Bureau or the top national security agency in Latvia, said on the public Latvian Radio, cites LETA. He said he was not prone to phobias but, based on the information that he knew as the head of the national security agency, he believed that it would best if Latvia kept to the existing voting procedure, using paper ballots. “That way it would be safer, and we will avoid security risks,” Maizitis said.Full Article: Constitution Protection Bureau: e-voting to create security risks in Latvia :: The Baltic Course | Baltic States news & analytics.
Latvia: Estonian and Latvian non-citizen petition for voting rights sent to European Parliament | Baltic Times
Latvian leftist MEPs Andrejs Mamikins (Harmony) and Tatjana Zdanoka (Russian Union of Latvia) have submitted petitions in support of Latvian and Estonian non-citizens to the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions. Mamikins told LETA that they had collected over 20,000 signatures under the petition, and there were residents of Belgium, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, the United States, Canada, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh among the signatories of the petition. The petition seeks the rights for Estonia’s non-citizens to become members of political parties and to vote in the European Parliament election and, in the case of Latvia’s non-citizens, the right to vote in the European Parliament election.Full Article: Estonian and Latvian non-citizen petition for voting rights sent to European Parliament.
Latvia’s parliament on Wednesday elected Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis as the Baltic state’s new president, making him the 28-member European Union’s first Green Party head of state. His victory comes as the small NATO and eurozone member of two million people is grappling with security concerns amid heightened tensions with Russia, and Vejonis acknowledged the troubled ties with the former Soviet-era master in his first speech after being named to the post. “I would like to improve relations with Russia… but while Russian rockets and heavy weapons remain in Ukraine, that’s not really possible,” the 48-year-old Vejonis said after winning the secret ballot in which 55 out of 100 legislators backed him.Full Article: Latvia elects Vejonis, EU's first Green president - Yahoo News.
Latvia’s center-right coalition has formed a negotiation group to agree on the next government after securing a safe majority in parliament in last Saturday’s general election. The parliamentary election, however, was narrowly won by the opposition leftist pro-Russia Harmony party with 23.2 percent of the vote, but its chances of being taken into the new government appear to be slight, given that the three ruling parties have won 56 percent support between them. The Unity party emerged as the runner-up in the election, winning 21.6 percent of the vote, Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS) came third with 19.7 percent and the National Alliance took fourth place winning 16.5 percent of the vote.Full Article: News Analysis: Latvian president provides one week for parties to negotiate on new government | Shanghai Daily.
Latvia’s hawkish center ruling coalition has won a clear majority in a general election, results showed on Sunday, after taking a hard line over the actions of Russia, its neighbor and former ruler, in Ukraine. Victory for the center in the Baltic state, which takes over the presidency of the EU at the start of next year, will bring a sigh of relief from many worried that the pro-Russian Concord party might gain power and give Russian President Vladimir Putin a friendly voice in the European Union. “The pro-European, relatively predictable, economically liberal course will continue,” Ivars Ijabs, associate professor of political science from University of Latvia, said.Full Article: Latvia's ruling parties win election dominated by Russian issue | Reuters.
As Latvia goes to the polls to electsa new parliament Saturday (04.10.2014), Russia’s Ukraine policy will likely have a strong impact on the result. The government in Riga is no longer ruling out an act of aggression from the Kremlin, which has repeatedly declared its intent to protect Russians abroad. Their share of the total population of the Baltic state is 26 percent, significantly higher than that in Ukraine, where they make up 17 percent. Latvia has a difficult relationship with Russia. In 1940 it was annexed by the former USSR. “The experience of 60 years of Soviet occupation is rooted deeply in historical memory,” says Norbert Beckmann-Dierkes, who heads the German Konrad-Adenauer Foundation in Riga. The 100 seats in Latvia’s parliament, the Saeima, will be fought for by 13 parties. Some represent Latvians only, others the Russian-speaking population, many of whom are so-called “non-citizens.” These are mostly Russians who, after Latvia became independent in 1991, were not offered passports. Nearly one in eight residents in the country is a “non-citizen.”Full Article: Latvian vote overshadowed by Russian questions | Europe | DW.DE | 03.10.2014.
Latvians look likely to back their hawkish centre-right ruling coalition in a parliamentary election on Saturday amid increased tensions with giant neighbor Russia, Riga’s communist-era ruler, over the Ukraine crisis. Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma has taken a tough stance towards Moscow over its policies in Ukraine, boosting defense spending and joining Baltic neighbours Estonia and Lithuania in pressing for a bigger NATO presence in their region. Among her main opponents in the election is the traditionally pro-Moscow Concord party, which draws support from the ethnic Russians who make up about a quarter of Latvia’s two million-strong population. “I think that most likely we will have the same centre-right coalition as we see now. And the main reason is Russia’s aggression in Ukraine,” said Andis Kudors, executive director of the Center for East European Policy Studies. “Latvian parties will have a hard time convincing voters why they would go (into a coalition) with a Concord party which does not condemn Russia’s aggression enough.”Full Article: Latvia heads to election under shadow of assertive Russia | Reuters.
Arnis Cimdars, chairman of Latvia’s Central Electoral Commission (CVK) claimed Wednesday that electronic voting was not secure enough to allow it to be used in Latvian elections – despite the fact that neighboring Estonia has used e-voting successfully since 2005. “There it happens. They accept it,” Cimdars said, noting different mindsets in the two countries. Speaking on LTV’s Rita Panorama morning news show, Cimdars said he thought e-voting would happen “sooner or later” but that debates about its introduction would continue for the foreseeable future. “According to our experts, it is not possible for us with current technology. We have some mental reservations about this method of voting, too… at the moment it is not possible to ensure the anonymity and security of this method of voting, so I don’t think it will happen very soon,” he added.Full Article: LSM / No e-voting for Latvia any time soon / Eng.lsm.lv.
A referendum on making Russian an official language in Latvia has raised the dim possibility of it also becoming an official language of the EU. The country’s Central Election Commission (CEC) itself predicts the poll, on 18 February, will be a non-starter. A CEC spokeswoman, Kristine Berzina, told EUobserver on Tuesday (14 February) that “the level for the vote is so high it will never happen.” According to the rules, half of all eligible voters in Latvia – 1.5 million people – must turn out in order to make a quorum, and half of all 1.5 million must vote Yes to get a positive result. Around one third of Latvians are Russian speakers. But in some rural communities the figure is 60 percent. If the bid comes through, it will put pressure on Riga to take steps at EU level.Full Article: EUobserver.com / Social Affairs / Latvia vote poses question on Russian as EU language.
A total of 85 polling stations in 41 countries—the greatest number ever—will be open outside the homeland on Feb. 18 for a national referendum to decide if Russian should become an official language alongside Latvian. The Central Election Commission in Rīga announced the list Jan. 20 after the Constitutional Court decided not to interfere in the referendum, although it will take up a case questioning the legitimacy of parts of Latvia’s initiative and referendum law.Full Article: Voting abroad on language issue possible in more places than ever.
A national referendum on whether Russian should become Latvia’s second official language is set for Feb. 18, the Central Election Commission announced Jan. 3 in Rīga.
The referendum will decide whether proposed legislation to amend the constitution will be adopted. The legislation would change five sections in the constitution, including Paragraph 4, which sets Latvian as the sole official language. At least half of all eligible voters, or nearly 772,000 citizens, would need to vote in favor of the referendum question for it to pass, according to Latvian law.Full Article: Vote on language issue set Feb. 18.
Latvia: Pro-Russia party gains historic election victory in Latvia, hopes for role in government | The Washington Post
A left-wing, pro-Russia party captured the most votes in Latvia’s parliamentary elections, marking a milestone for the tiny Baltic nation where parties distrustful of Russia have dominated all national elections since independence 20 years ago. With some 95 percent of ballots counted early Sunday, Harmony Center, a party catering to the country’s ethnic Russian minority, had 29.2 percent of the vote.
Since 1991, when Latvia regained its independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union, no such party had either won an election or been included in a coalition government, a streak that Harmony hopes to change after Saturday’s election. But other parties were already maneuvering to shut Harmony out of any coalition government.Full Article: Pro-Russia party gains historic election victory in Latvia, hopes for role in government - The Washington Post.
Latvia: Parliamentary vote marked by pluralism and respect for fundamental freedoms, OSCE observers say | ODIHR
Yesterday’s early parliamentary elections in Latvia took place in a democratic and pluralistic environment and were marked by the rule of law, respect of fundamental freedoms, and functioning democratic institutions, observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) concluded in a statement issued today.
“This election has been run professionally and voters were provided a genuine choice between parties offering different platforms,” said Konrad Olszewski, the head of the ODIHR limited election observation mission.Full Article: Latvian parliamentary vote marked by pluralism and respect for fundamental freedoms, OSCE observers say - Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
Larvia’s elections on September 17 were called as a result of the political upsets in the summer when President Valdis Zatlers tried to confront the grip that he said the country’s three “oligarchs” had on its parliament, the Saeima. Bloomberg has a useful summary of the state of play. It looks as though the parties affiliated with the tycoons may win only 14 of 100 seats, down from 51 five years ago and 30 in 2010.
Aivars Lembergs, mayor of the big port of Ventspils, will probably do best. A poll gives his Greens and Farmers Union 8.5% which will at least get it into parliament. He faces a long-running investigation for bribery, money laundering and abuse of office since 2008 (he vehemently denies all wrongdoing). Ainārs Šlesers, who was at the centre of a controversy that prompted this summer’s crisis, is unlikely to return to parliament. His “For a Better Latvia” is polling less than the 5% threshold. The third “oligarch” Andris Šķēle has dissolved his party.Full Article: Latvian elections: the oligarchs' exit: Time up for tycoons | The Economist.