On Thursday, 21 June, the Saeima in the third and final reading adopted amendments to the Law on National Referendums and Initiation of Legislation, thus changing the procedure for initiating legislation or amendments to the Constitution by the electorate. The new wording of the Law supported by the Legal Affairs Committee of the Saeima sets forth that the new procedure will come into effect on 1 January 2015.
The amendments to the Law will reject the two-stage system used in signature collection by stipulating that the signatures of one-tenth of the electorate that are needed for initiating a law will have to be collected by a special initiative group set up for this purpose. Signature collection will be simplified by allowing them to be collected electronically, as well as allowing them to be certified by local government authorities.
“Members of parliament have been working on this draft law intensively for more than a half a year and have dedicated more than 20 meetings of the Committee for this purpose. By taking into consideration opinions expressed by the involved parties and experts, we have significantly improved the initial wording of the draft law and reached a compromise that satisfies the majority of political parities represented in the Saeima,” indicates Ilma Čepāne, Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee.
The new wording of the Law drafted by the Legal Affairs Committee envisages that not less than one-tenth of the electorate will have the right to submit to the Central Election Commission a fully elaborated draft law or draft amendments to the Constitution. It will be possible to submit these drafts to the Central Election Commission within 12 months from the day when they are registered with the Central Election Commission. Within 12 months each signature will have to be certified by a notary public, orphans’ court of a municipality or city, or by any other public institution which has the right to certify the authenticity of an individual’s signature.
Proposals for amendments supported by the Committee set forth that it will be also possible to collect signatures electronically as long as the possibility to identify signatories and protection of personal data are ensured. This possibility will be ensured through portal www.latvija.lv or any other online system utilised by the initiative group for signature collection. The Cabinet of Ministers will be tasked with defining security and technical requirements for the use of online systems, as well as appointing an institution which will evaluate the compliance of the system to these requirements.
The amendments to the Law state that initiative group set up for signature collection can be a political party or alliance of political parties, as well as an association established by not fewer than ten voters.
Pursuant to the new procedure, a draft law or draft amendments to the Constitution will have to be registered with the Central Election Commission. Within 45 days it will have to make a decision whether to accept or reject the draft for registration or to set a deadline for eliminating deficiencies in the draft. The Central Election Commission can reject the registration of the draft law if the initiative group does not comply with the set requirements or if the format or content of the draft law or draft amendments to the Constitution are not fully elaborated. The initiative group will have the right to appeal to the Senate of the Supreme Court the Central Election Committee’s decision to reject the registration of the draft law or draft amendments to the Constitution; the Supreme Court will have to make its judgement within a month.
Furthermore, the Law is supplemented with a procedure for initiation of recalling of the Saeima, which so far has not been prescribed in detail. The Law also is supplemented with a new chapter on canvassing before the national referendums and canvassing on initiation of a new law or recalling of the Saeima because until now canvassing before national referenda has not been regulated.
Currently, initiation of legislation takes place in two stages. If signatures of not fewer than 10,000 voters are collected in favour of the proposed draft law, the Central Election Commission initiates the second stage of the signature collection, which is funded by the state and can cost up to half a million lats.
If a draft law is supported by no less than one-tenth of the electorate, it is forwarded for consideration by the parliament. A national referendum is held if the Saeima does not adopt the draft law without changes in its contents.
Saeima Press Service