Latvian populist referendum on pensions fails to gain quorum

Other News Materials 24 August 2008 02:54 (UTC +04:00)

A referendum to increase pensions in the Baltic nation of Latvia failed to gain a quorum Saturday.

With 943 out of 997 precincts reporting, more than 334,000 Latvians cast their votes in the national contest, which failed to reach the quorum of 453,730 votes, required to adopt the measure, the dpa reported.

The voters were asked to decide whether the country's pensions should be tied to the government-set subsistence level. Currently, that would nearly triple the minimum monthly benefit from about 50 lats (120 dollars) to at least 135 lats.

Backing the proposal was the newly-launched opposition Society for Different Politics (SCP), which plans to become a political party in the fall.

The four-party coalition government said the measure, if approved, would have brought the pensions system to a halt.

With the economy on the edge of a recession, the government has frozen hiring and seen its tax intake dwindle. The current budget projects a surplus of just 0.05 per cent of gross domestic product.

Some Latvians didn't vote because they believed the government must decide how the money should be spent.

Others stayed home because they saw the referendum as a populist measure tailored to give a boost to the SCP, which is slated to field candidates for 2009 local elections and general elections the following year.