Dissatisfied Latvian voters want right to dissolve parliament

(dpa) - Long lines plagued voting precincts in the Baltic nation of Latvia this week, part of the push to give voters a right no other EU country has: to dissolve the parliament and call for snap elections.

"I'm not happy with the whole government. They don't listen to people any more," a woman named Aija told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa outside a precinct in the Latvian capital Riga.

About 213,750 Latvians signed up for the proposed changes to the constitution, the national election commission said Friday, announcing provisional results, which dealt a major blow to the centre-right government led by Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis and the 100-member unicameral parliament.

"The message is, in essence, that we don't approve the direction our country is going and policies the government has implemented. The demand for change is very high," University of Latvia political science professor Janis Ikstens told dpa.

The government opposed the effort, saying it would throw the Baltic nation of 2.3 million people into political chaos.

Staggering inflation, rising prices on utilities and food and several high-profile corruption cases in government drove people to polling stations during the month-long signature drive, initiated by the Latvian Free Labour Unions, Ikstens said.

"I don't think people are quite confident the government is able to deal with these problems," he said.

With the support of the opposition party New Era, the unions needed to collect almost 150,000 signatures to put the measure to a parliamentary vote.

If the parliament rejects or amends it, the legislation will be put to a national referendum.

"As a result, a very serious proposition amending the constitution either in parliament or through a referendum will be considered," a political science professor at the University of Latvia, Nils Muiznieks, told dpa.

The difficult economic situation in Latvia magnifies any unpopular decision by the government, he said.

If the measure is adopted, Latvia would become the only country in the 27-nation European Union where voters could dissolve the parliament and call for early elections.

Under the current law, the president can dissolve the parliament by putting his job on the line in a referendum. No snap elections have been called in the 90-year political history of Latvia.

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