Browse the listing below to find government information for Latvia, including flags, leaders,
and constitution information. Factrover also has complete information on Latvia at its
Latvia Country Page.
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Constitution: The law "On the Republic of Latvia Status as a State," passed by Parliament on August 21, 1991, provided for the reinstatement of the 1922 constitution.
Branches: Executive--President (head of state), elected by Parliament every 4 years; Prime Minister (head of government).
Legislative--Saeima (100-member body). Judicial--Supreme Court. Administrative regions: 26 "rural" districts and 6 districts in Riga.
Principal political factions: New Era (Einars Repse) 26 seats; Latvia's First Party (Eriks Jekabsons)10 seats; Union of Greens and Farmers (Augusts Brigmanis, Indulis Emsis)12 seats; Fatherland and Freedom (Maris Grinblats) 7 seats; National Harmony Party (Janis Jurkans)15 seats; People's Party (Atis Slakteris) 20 seats; Socialist Party (Aleksandr Golubov) 5 seats, For Human Rights in a United Latvia (Yakov Pliner) 5 seats.
Suffrage: 18 years universal.
Government of Latvia
The Saeima, a unicameral legislative body, now is the highest organ of state authority. It initiates and approves legislation sponsored by the Prime Minister. The prime minister has full responsibility and control over his cabinet, and the president holds a primarily ceremonial role as head of state.
In autumn 1991 Latvia reimplemented significant portions of its 1922 constitution, and in spring 1993 the government took a census to determine eligibility for citizenship. After almost 3 years of deliberations, Latvia finalized a citizenship and naturalization law in summer 1994, which was further liberalized in 1998. By law, those who were Latvian citizens in 1940, and their descendants (regardless of ethnicity), could claim citizenship. Forty-one percent of Latvia's population is ethnically non-Latvian, yet almost three-fourths of all residents are citizens of Latvia Naturalization criteria include a conversational knowledge of Latvian, a loyalty oath, renunciation of former citizenship, a 5-year residency requirement, and a basic knowledge of the Latvian history. Dual citizenship is allowed for those who were forced to leave Latvia during the Soviet occupation and adopted another citizenship. Convicted criminals, agents of Soviet intelligence services, and certain other groups also are excluded from becoming citizens.
On March 19, 1991 the Supreme Council passed a law explicitly guaranteeing "equal rights to all nationalities and ethnic groups" and "guarantees to all permanent residents in the Republic regardless of their nationality, equal rights to work and wages." The law also prohibits "any activity directed toward nationality discrimination or the promotion of national superiority or hatred."
In the June 5-6, 1993 elections wherein more than 90% of the electorate participated, eight of Latvia's 23 registered political parties passed the 5% threshold to enter parliament. The Popular Front, which spearheaded the drive for independence 2 years ago with a 75% majority in the last parliamentary elections in 1990, did not qualify for representation. The centrist "Latvia's Way" party received a 33% plurality of votes and joined with the Farmer's Union to head a center-right wing coalition government.
Through President Clinton's initiative, on April 30, 1994 Latvia and Russia signed a troop withdrawal agreement. Russia withdrew its troops by August 31, 1994, and maintained several hundred technical specialists to staff an OSCE-monitored phased-array ABM radar station at Skrunda until the facility was destroyed in 1995.
The September 30-October 1, 1995 elections brought forth a deeply fragmented parliament with nine parties represented and the largest party commanding only 18 of 100 seats. Attempts to form right-of-center and leftist governments failed; 7 weeks after the election, a broad but fractious coalition government of six of the nine parties was voted into office under Prime Minister Andris Skele, a widely popular, nonpartisan businessman.
In the 1998 elections, the Latvian party structure began to consolidate with only six parties obtaining seats in the Saeima. Andris Skele's newly formed People's Party garnered a plurality with 24 seats. Though the election represented a victory for the center-right, personality conflicts and scandals within the two largest right of center parties--Latvia's Way and the People's Party--prevented stable coalitions from forming. Two shaky governments under Vilis Kristopans and Andris Skele quickly collapsed in less than a year. In May 2000, a compromise candidate was found in the form of Andris Berzins, the then Latvia's Way mayor of Riga. His four-party coalition lasted until parliamentary elections in October 2002. Those elections left Latvia's Way, for the first time since 1993, with no seats in parliament. Einars Repse's New Era Party, which ran on an anti-corruption platform, gained the most seats, and Repse heads the current four-party coalition government.
In 1999, the Saeima elected Vair Vike-Freiberga, a compromise candidate with no party affiliation, to the presidency. Though born in Riga in 1937, she settled in Canada during the years of the Soviet occupation, becoming a well-respected academic in the subject of Latvian culture and psychology. Since her election, she has become one of the most popular political figures in Latvia. She was overwhelming re-elected by parliament for another 4-year term in June 2003.
Latvia's flag consists of two horizontal, maroon bands of equal width, divided by a white stripe one-half the width. The national holiday is November 18, Independence Day.