On Thursday, 19 January, the Saeima adopted in the final reading amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the Saeima which repeal election of public officials by a secret ballot, envisage the right of at least 10,000 citizens to submit collective submissions and amend the list of committees of the Saeima.
The amendments will repeal the current practice whereby a number of public officials are elected by secret ballot. From now on, the open ballot procedure will be used when electing members of the Presidium of the Saeima, the Ombudsman, the Auditor General, judges, the Director of the Constitution Protection Bureau, the Prosecutor General, the Director of the Corruption Prevention and Combatting Bureau, the Chairman of the Central Election Committee and a number of other public officials as required by law. Thus, immediately after the vote is taken, everyone will have access to information on how each MP has voted on the relevant public official.
Concurrently, the amendments to the Constitution repealing the secret ballot in the election of the President of Latvia and judges of the Constitutional Court have been forwarded for review by the committees.
Furthermore, from now on the Rules of Procedure will envisage an opportunity for at least 10,000 citizens to file a collective submission with the Saeima. Citizens of Latvia who have reached the age of 16 on the relevant day will have the right to sign such a submission. It will also be possible to collect signatures electronically as long as the identification of the signatures and protection of personal data are ensured.
Collective submissions should contain a request to the Saeima, give a brief justification of the request, as well as specify the person authorised to represent the signatories of the collective submission. It will not be permissible for a collective submission to contain a request which is clearly unacceptable in a democratic society or is plainly offensive. It will also be prohibited for the request to undermine values of human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights, including the rights of minorities. The amendments will also set forth the procedure by which the Saeima will review collective submissions.
The amendments to the Rules of Procedure envisage changes in the list of the committees of the Saeima; that is, the Administrative Committee will cease to exist while the Citizenship Law Implementation Committee will be renamed as the Social Cohesion Committee. The amendments will also stipulate that an MP will be allowed to serve simultaneously on not more than two standing committees and three subcommittees instead of two subcommittees as has been permitted up until now.
The amendments to the Rules of Procedure, which have been supported by the Legal Affairs Committee, also extend the speaking time allocated for each MP during the annual foreign policy debate. When discussing the annual report on the performance and planned future activities in foreign policy submitted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, MPs will be given ten minutes for their first speech and five minutes for their second speech.
Amendments to the Rules of Procedure concerning the repeal of the secret ballot and collective submissions will enter into force on the day following their proclamation, whereas amendment to the list of committees will take effect as of 1 April 2012.
Saeima Press Service