Institutional mechanisms for promotion of accountable policy-making in Latvia: Evaluation of the Constitutional reform proposals from the perspective of political science


ABSTRACTThe main emphasis of this research report is on the proposals to introduce direct elections fo the president and to switch to the mixed Parliamentary election system, as well as on analysis of the potential impact and effectiveness of such innovations.

The most thorough proposal has been put forth by the Latvian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (LSDSP). Its working group led by party leader Juris Bojars has developed a new draft Constitution.

The popularity of the idea to introduce direct presidential elections depends on social, as well as political factors. The LSDSP proposal envisages the introduction of direct presidential elections which would also have expanded authority to appoint high-level officials and to dismiss Saeima. However, the President’s executive powers would not be significantly expanded.

The evaluation of this proposal concludes that in the proposed scenario, the President’s ability to influence everyday policy-making would remain minimal, while simultaneously jeopardizing the traditionally fragile political stability in Latvia. Thus, the proposal does not eliminate the root causes of the need for constitutional reforms and does not meet the proposed objectives, except the overtly political ones.

The LSDSP proposal to change the Saeima election system plans to maintain the current number of Saeima deputies; however, stipulates that only half of them would be elected from the proportional multi-mandate areas. The other half of the parliamentary body would be selected from 50 single-mandate areas on the basis of a simple majority mechanism. This kind of electoral regime is known as parallel voting (rather than a mixed election system!).
The evaluation of the LSDSP proposal also concludes that the proposed reforms may facilitate a significant shift in power balance within Saeima to the advantage of those parties whose electorate lives in geographically compact areas or whose electorate has marginal majority in many election districts. It can also have a large crippling effect on the ratio.

Theoretical application of the experience of other countries does indicate that the proposed reforms could result in a stronger link with the electorate. However, it could only occur in the single-mandate areas. A stronger link with the electorate would promote the accountability of politicians, increase the legitimacy of the political system, and the satisfaction of the society with the functioning of the system.

However, considering the given socio-political circumstances, the primary goal should be to fully utilize the advantages of the existing Saeima election system by emphasizing the opportunity for voters to demonstrate their attitude towards each candidate of the chosen list by marking election cards as stipulated in the legislation.

Institutional mechanisms for promotion of accountable policy-making in Latvia
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