The Latvian parliament or Saeima voted 47 to 25 to move ahead with a proposal by the right-of-center National Alliance (NA) amending the Latvian Constitution to exclude same-sex couples from the definition of a family as protected by Latvia’s basic law.

The vote merely sent the proposal to a string of parliamentary committees and to become a constitutional amendment, it must be presented, debated and voted in three plenary session readings and passed with a two-thirds majority of the 100-member Saeima

The proposal by the NA, a member of the five party coalition under Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, came in apparent response to a ruling by Latvia’s Constitutional Court last November allowing one partner in a same-sex couple to receive a “paternal” benefit paid to males when their partner gives birth to a child. …

Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš on January 5 asked for the resignation of Minister of Health Ilze Viņkele, claiming she has failed to timely produce a clear and viable plan for vaccinating the citizens of the Baltic country against the Covid-19 virus.

Viņkele told local media that she accepted the Prime Minister’s right to fire her, but called the move an attempt to shift responsibility for what she called “not especially coordinated and smooth crisis management, which in this complicated times should be done by the premier.”Her dismissal will be made official at a regular government meeting on January 7.

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Dismissed Latvian Minister of Health Ilze…

The Riga Ghetto and Holocaust Museum has just gotten a reprieve from possibly having to move or close down. It is located at the edge of the historic Spīķeru or Warehouse District by the Daugava River shoreline just outside the Riga Old Town and adjacent to the Riga Market in the Latvian capital. The newly-formed Riga City Council on October 27 extended the rent-free lease of the museum’s territory for another 10 years, but subject to restrictions on any new construction on the site.

The museum is the main project of the Jewish organization Shamir, which also does research and public information on Latvia’s largely destroyed Jewish houses of worship and other aspects of Jewish life and history in the Baltic nation. …

The Latvian parliament or Saeima on October 29 rejected a citizen initiative proposal that would allow registration of civil partnership between two persons regardless of their gender.

The 100-member legislature, following an at times heated debate, voted against moving the proposal along as a draft law by a vote of 55 to 30, with one deputy abstaining and several others absent or not voting at the on-line session of the Saeima. The proposed law was supported by 10 392 signatures on ManaBalss.lv

Criminal fraud charges have been brought against Juris Gulbis, the chief executive of Tet, the Latvian telecommunications and entertainment company jointly owned by Sweden’s Telia Company and the Latvian state, and other current and former Tet executives, the Latvian State Prosecutor confirmed.

The charges against Gulbis, Tet director of legal and corporate affairs Toms Meisītis, Jānis Ligers, a former executive of the company, and Gintars Kavacs, the owner and executive of a digital video broadcast equipment company, date back to transactions more than 10 years ago, when Tet was called Lattelecom.

Gulbis and the other Lattelecom executives allegedly made deals to facilitate a fast launch of digital terrestrial broadcasting in the Latvian capital Riga by buying equipment from a company run by Kavacs, who in turn had bought it from an earlier digital TV project that ended in scandal and criminal charges against around 20 persons. …

Lawmakers in the Baltic country of Latvia are moving to solidify or extend limits on human rights on three fronts — blocking a proposed partnership law that would give rights and security to both opposite and same sex couples, preparing to ban an orange and red ribbon seen as symbolizing contemporary Russian imperialism and throttling the ability of journalists to investigate using the national Register of Companies.

On October 8, the Latvian parliament or Saeima will yet again be presented with at least 10 000 signatures on a citizens’ initiative to permit the registration of “life partnership” (Latvian dzīves biedri) between any two persons living together in an affectionate relationship. After Latvian media reported on September 30 the rejection of the proposal — an issue that has been repeated brought before the Saeima over the past 20 years — there was outrage on social media and a new round signatures of secure and verifiable on the citizen initiative website ManaBalss.lv (My Voice) reached 4000 in 24 hours, reached 7000 over the following weekend and passed 8500 by the start of the week. …

The so-called Baltic travel bubble, which since the middle of May has allowed free travel in the region by residents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, partly collapsed September 11 when Latvian authorities put Estonia on a list of places from which travelers must self-isolate for 14 days after entering Latvia.

The Latvian Center for Disease Prevention and Control published its weekly list of infection rates in Europe and some other countries, listing Estonia’s Covid -19 infection rate at 20.8 per 100 000 population, well over the Latvian limit of 16 per 100 000

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Inage borrowed from the internet

The new restrictions, which had been expected, essentially end all tourism and personal visits between both countries and apply. as well, to all citizens and residents of Latvia returning from Estonia. …

The Latvian capital Riga will be governed by a coalition of several parties built around a liberal-left alliance that gained just over 26 percent of the vote in the August 29 extraordinary elections to the 60-member city council.

The election, with a record low participation of 40.6 percent of eligible voters in the city. formally ended more than 10 years of scandal-ridden rule by the allegedly pro-Russian, self-declared social democratic Harmony (S) party and its allies, who were dismissed when the city council was dissolved earlier this year.

Political analysts say the new mayor of Riga, to be elected by the council, will be Mārtiņš Staķis from the alliance of the liberal For Development/For (A/Par) and the social democratic Progressives (Pro) that gained the most votes. Staķis is expected to be supported by several other parties that passed the 5 percent threshold for getting seated in the municipal council. He resigned a seat in the Latvian parliament or Saeima, where he represented A/Par to run in the Riga…

Latvians in the capital Riga will vote August 29 in closely contested extraordinary elections to elect a new 60-member city council replacing municipal lawmakers who were all dismissed earlier this year after a series of corruption scandals that also saw the mayor, Nils Ušakovs, fired by the government in 2019.

Former mayor Ušakovs and his deputy mayor Andris Ameriks from the local An Honor to Serve Riga (GKR) party were both elected last year to the European Parliament and moved to Brussels.

Ušakovs’ Harmony (S) party, who call themselves social democrats, are in voter polls some fractions of a percentage point ahead of an electoral alliance of the liberal For Development/For (APar) and the Progressives (Pro) who also are social democrats. …

Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said on August 17 that after recent events in Belarus, he sees no possibility for Latvia to hold next year’s World Ice Hockey Championship jointly in the Latvian capital Riga and Belarus’ capital Minsk.

Following an emergency meeting of the Latvian government to discuss developments in Belarus, which shares a 172 kilometer border with the NATO and European Union (EU) member, Karins called for talks with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) about moving the championship elsewhere.

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Nils Ušakovs, mayor of Riga at the time (right) and a Belarus official shake hands on the planned joint World Hockey Championship to be held in the Latvian capital and Minsk (Photo: Belarus.by)

He indicated Latvia would be willing to host the games together with any other country in the IIHF other than Belarus. However, if Belarus is not dropped from hosting the World Championship by the IIHF “and if the situation in Belarus does not change, the government could consider Latvia’s withdrawal from organizing the 2021 championship,” Kariņš said. …

About

Juris Kaža

A freelance journalist based in Riga, Latvia who has covered the country and region for 20 years. Speak native Latvian and English, fluent Swedish and German.

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