MP Jūlija Stepaņenko: From now on, my job won't differ much from the MPs who stay silent throughout the term

Last Friday, the Saeima passed a law in the final reading, stipulating that Saeima Members who are unvaccinated and have not recovered from Covid-19 will be prohibited from participating in the sittings of the Saeima, its committees and other parliamentary institutions from November 15. Four MPs that will be subject to this restriction were officially named on Monday.
16.11.2021. Jānis Lasmanis
©Ieva Ābele/Saeima

Of course, Jānis Ādamsons, a Member arrested on suspicions of espionage, was unable to present a certificate or prove that he has recovered from Covid-19. Vladimirs Nikonovs, a representative of Harmony (Saskaņa), also decided not to be vaccinated against Covid-19 possibly for health, religious or other reasons. However, Jūlija Stepaņenko, who does not belong to the factions, decided not to get vaccinated due to their personal conviction.

Romāns Naudiņš, who represents National Alliance (Nacionālā apvienība), is not allowed to participate in the sittings of the Saeima either, but he assured Neatkarīgā that he had been vaccinated long before the law was proposed. The vaccine with which he has been vaccinated is not yet recognized in Latvia, therefore the Member will soon start the procedure so that his vaccine will be legally recognized and he will be granted a Covid certificate, which will allow him to resume full-fledged work as a Member.

Consequently, from Monday, along with many other public administration employees, these Saeima Members will not be able to perform their duties and receive remuneration.

Not only the representatives of the Saeima opposition, but also the Legal Bureau of the Saeima have warned that such a norm could conflict with the Constitution, but the parliamentary majority did not find such concerns sufficiently substantiated to sway them.

Despite the fact that her work in parliament is now significantly limited, Stepaņenko does not intend to resign and neither is she going to get vaccinated in order to be able to work to the fullest. She is also convinced that the time will come when this law will be declared unconstitutional.

Considering that you have not been vaccinated, you are not allowed to continue working in the Saeima meetings and receive remuneration for it. Does this turn of events make you reconsider vaccination?

You are the third journalist to ask this question at every stage of the event. I do not know whether it's torture or just curiosity.

It's curiosity because I know people who have gotten vaccinated so that they do not lose their jobs.

When people are at a dead end, they do so because there is no other choice. This is economic torture. Or moral torture, call it whatever you want, but that's the way it is.

I will not change my mind. In my datasheet, there are only test certificates that I have obtained to participate in the work of the Saeima so far. I have also obtained such a certificate for today as well in order to be able to legally prove that I do not endanger my colleagues working remotely.

I have put forward proposals for a proportionate means by which Members can retain their rights. If the Bureau needed to make sure I was safe, I was committed to testing at my own expense every hour and a half, but Members showed their choice by rejecting my proposals.

I'm sorry, but given that, maybe it's worth thinking about resigning? You can't work, you won't get paid, the elections are approaching… Maybe another Member should work?

Nothing can surprise or anger me anymore. During this time, everything should be perceived with humor. As far as I understand from the Members who approved this decision and from the Legal Bureau, I still have the right to sign draft decisions, draft laws, proposals and Members' questions. Consequently, my functions do not differ much from the MPs who stay silent throughout the term. My functions will hopefully only be cut in half - I will not be able to debate, I will not be able to vote. I am pleased that, at least for the time being, I have the right to continue my work as a Member, and I will do so. There can be no question of resigning, and I have a specific plan for how I can continue to help my constituents, even in this situation.

Part of the opposition and also the Legal Bureau of the Saeima admit that this procedure could conflict with the Constitution. Are you going to defend your rights and how?

It would not be right to talk about the strategy at the moment, but of course, I am ready to fight for myself and for the rights of those who are being suspended today just like me. I am doing it and I will keep doing it.

Does your position on vaccination match that of your family members?

I am supported by relatives, friends, colleagues. Regardless of their own status and beliefs. I have enough moral and mental resources to continue my struggle. I would like to wish everyone for whom this is a difficult day not to despair, to unite. I know that the fight will not be easy, but I am sure that we will definitely win when the time comes.


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