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TI Latvia submitted a letter of protest signed by 671 person (390 on-line)

Protest action against elimination of political party campaign ceilings

Transparency International Latvia has submitted a letter of protest related to the People’s Party proposal to eliminate political party campaign ceilings to Latvia’s parliamentary chancery today. The letter was signed by 671 people. The letter will be distributed to each member of Parliament. Two MPs have already responded – Ainārs Latkovskis and Vladimirs Buzajevs. The TI Latvia protest is continuing.

Good governance and political accountability mean that all MPs should answer those signers of the letter who have shown their name and address. One individual chose to strike a few parliamentary factions from the list. This means that Parliament should send out at least 67,000 responses. As of this writing, 233 electronic letters had been sent from the homepage www.balsogudri.lv (vote smart!), and MPs should respond to these, as well. On the homepage, most people have chosen to send the letter only to members of the People’s Party and First Party of Latvia/Latvia’s Way factions. During a protest demonstration, approximately 1,000 blank letters were distributed for individual copying and posting. Protesters also distributed 2,000 brochures with information about the protest on the Internet.

During the protest, which took place on March 6 and 7, 671 people signed an individual letter of protest, asking MPs to explain their position on the matter of campaign financing. TI Latvia executive chairman Roberts Putnis: “This is a complex issue, and it does not affect the personal needs of individuals in any direct way. The letter is of a very individual nature, too, and so such extensive activity is a pleasant surprise. The comparatively low level of participation on the internet can be explained in part through the fact that people just don’t believe that politicians treat electronic letters as seriously as they do letters which are written on paper.”

Organisers of the protest heard many criticisms about the work of Latvia’s government, with people using terms such as “deaf”, “shameless” and “authoritarian.” Many people thought that Prosecutor-General Jānis Maizītis and the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau will both soon be shut down. There were many questions about a lack of political accountability, with people pointing to the refusal of the welfare minister to resign after the fire at a home for mentally disabled individuals which killed 25 of them. There were also questions about the agriculture minister and his problems with European Union financing.

Many passers-by chose to take part in the protest when addressed, some saying that they were doing something of the kind for the very first time and adding that the time had come to become active. Participants were bemused about the claim that it is the duty of MPs to answer letters sent by Latvian voters. Several passers-by promised to buy Champagne for TI Latvia if all 100 MPs respond.

Then there were those passers-by who said that they would like to sign the letter but could not, because they worked in government jobs and would be sacked if they did so. Most of those claims sounded quite serious. There are many state and local government institutions in the proximity of the location where the protest was held. These were people who spoke in favour of the protest but declined to sign a letter with their name and address.

TI Latvia was surprised to find a few young people who worried whether their signature would mean that they would be declared “enemies of the people” or “traitors.” The lack of civic education was made clear by other youngsters who wondered whether it was even permissible to write such letters to members of Parliament.

The harshest accusation was this: “You people are stupid idealists.” During the two-day protest, there were no other criticisms or incidents.

The two MPs who were first to react to the electronic letters were both politicians who are in opposition and object to lifting the campaign spending ceilings – Ainārs Latkovskis from the New Era party, and Vladimirs Buzajevs from For Human Rights in a United Latvia.

A copy of the letter which can still be sent to MPs is attached to this press release, and protesters can also ask TI Latvia to send the letter on their behalf. The electronic version is still found on www.balsogudri.lv, and the full text of the letter can be printed out from www.delna.lv or received at the TI Latvia office every workday from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.


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