MP Viktors Valainis: This coalition rarely listens to the voice of reason

The Minister of Justice, who is constantly trying to influence the judiciary and force the officials of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to defend questionable and anti-democratic bills in the Saeima, should have been suspended a long time ago - said Viktors Valainis (ZZS), Member of the Saeima and Executive Director of the Latvian Association of Large Cities, speaking about the constant efforts of the MoJ led by Jānis Bordāns to achieve the adoption of another “anti-Lembergs law”.
08.11.2021. Uldis Dreiblats, Ritums Rozenbergs
 
Viktors Valainis, Member of the Saeima and Executive Director of the Latvian Association of Large Cities, whose opinion was also supported by local government specialists and ombudsman Juris Jansons, as well as the majority of MPs, succeeded in the Saeima Public Administration and Local Government Committee in removing the current “anti-Lembergs law” proposed by the Minister of Justice Jānis Bordāns from the amendments to the Local Government Law ©F64

The debate on the proposal of V. Valainis to delete the new wording of Article 16 from the amendments to the Local Government Law, initiated by the MoJ led by J. Bordāns, started in the Saeima Public Administration and Local Government Committee on October 20 this year. The proposed wording of the amendments envisages a prohibition to nominate persons to whom a security measure has been applied as candidates for the chairperson of the local government council.

The debate in the Saeima committee ended only on November 2, after getting acquainted with the Ombudsman's opinion, the necessity of which had been requested by the Saeima Legal Bureau.

The Ombudsman had found a disproportionate restriction of the rights of the persons elected by the people in the MoJ proposal and acknowledged that the objectives of criminal proceedings could also be achieved by other methods. (The Ombudsman's opinion can be found here.)

Despite the opinion of the Ombudsman, as well as the representative of the Legal Bureau of the Saeima, Docent of the University of Latvia, Dr. iur. Edvīns Danovskis and Senior Adviser of the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments, Dr. phys. and Dr. oec. Māris Pūķis' explanations at the meeting of the Public Administration and Local Government Committee, the representatives of the MoJ continued to deny and at the same time acknowledge that the amendments to the law proposed by the Ministry are intended for none other than Aivars Lembergs. As you know, A. Lembergs won a brilliant victory in the last municipal elections, however, the chairman of Ventspils City Council was not re-elected probably only because one vote was missing - namely, A. Lembergs himself could not participate in the City Council meeting because he was imprisoned in Riga Central Prison.

New restriction

However, the majority of the MPs of the Saeima committee showed common sense and supported V. Valainis' proposal to delete the above-mentioned norm.

Shortly before the vote at the committee meeting on November 2, E. Danovskis explained to the MPs: “When assessing such a new restriction of fundamental human rights included in the law, the committee is also obliged to collect all the necessary information in the legislative process in order to assess whether such restriction does or does not comply with the Constitution. The Ombudsman, as one of the institutions providing opinions, has expressed the opinion that this restriction contained in Article 16 of the draft law is a new restriction and so far such restrictions on nominating someone who has been applied a security measure to as the chairman or deputy chairman of the council - there was no such restriction in the law. I will remind you of what was written in the Ombudsman's letter. The Ombudsman points out that this is a restriction of the right to perform public service specified in Article 101 of the Constitution by participating in the work of local governments. At the same time, this restriction has a legitimate aim - the protection of a democratic state system. In assessing the proportionality of this restriction, the Ombudsman considers that it has been observed in order to achieve the legitimate aim, i.e., to create public confidence in the selection of suitable candidates for positions. At the same time, when assessing the proportionality of this restriction, the Ombudsman points out that the current regulatory framework already includes means less restrictive of a person's rights, which allow achieving the set goal without imposing new restrictions. Respectively, in the opinion of the Ombudsman's Office, already now, when applying a security measure, it is possible to assess in each individual case - whether and for how long this restriction will be established, rather than absolutely prohibiting the nomination and election of persons who are subject to such a security measure. Yes! Such an argument has been made by the Ombudsman, and the Ombudsman points out that there are other less restrictive means. Thus, accordingly, in the legislative process, the only way to justify the compliance of such a norm with the Constitution is to indicate that the existing norms are not effective due to such and such reasons. Also to the Legal Bureau about the argument - we have to agree with the Ombudsman until other arguments have been made as to why such a restriction is necessary - namely, that the existing mechanism cannot achieve the legitimate aim of human rights in the same quality."

People's representatives must be protected

M. Pūķis reminded the MPs: “In most cases, the chairman of the council is an informal leader, around whom a faction is formed, which actually takes over the management of the council. That is the reality. And it is very bad if the election of this leader is delayed at this point. Nothing stops them from communicating all the arguments that have been made to deputies. And if the deputies believe that the issue has not yet been resolved and nothing has been proven, then they should be able to nominate their informal leader in a way that is not hampered. The Ombudsman has pointed out that this is indeed a breach of proportionality, although the aim is legitimate it is achieved by other means. Even after the election, this chairman will not be able to perform his duties and the council will be able to make another decision later, but until the deputies are convinced, they must reserve the right to nominate their informal leader as the head of the municipality. This is in the interests of absolutely everyone. It is not for nothing that in all systems with a parliamentary system, a democratic system, the focus should not be on how to punish or exclude the elected representatives of the people, but on how to protect them additionally. This is a step in the exact opposite direction, and it does us no credit."

Going against competitors with a law

V. Valainis warned his colleagues that one person should not pass laws and the central government should not interfere in the choice of the head of a local government: “The Ombudsman's opinion shows very clearly that this norm is, to put it mildly, politically motivated. Hearing how the Ministry of Justice interprets this norm, I am increasingly convinced that this is a norm meant for one man - Aivars Lembergs - and this is an element of political struggle, which the Ministry of Justice is trying to incorporate into law to compete with its political competitors. It would not be right for us to organize political relations in this way. I cannot support this approach, so I have submitted this proposal and I call on colleagues to support it. We see that the Ministry of Justice was not able to respond in any way to the arguments expressed by the Ombudsman, nor to the arguments expressed by the Legal Bureau of the Saeima. I have to say it clearly. At the moment, this is nothing more than just a struggle to be able or unable to nominate one particular person, and that person is still in prison. It is unacceptable to make such a norm for one person, to put it mildly, especially if we look at the election results in Ventspils. There, the people have made their views clear on this situation, and they have had no objections to how this council has worked and what the objectives have been. Citizens have supported it. At the moment, we want to meddle from the top how the people themselves want to manage their city.”

The Minister influences officials

After the meeting of the committee, V. Valainis explained in a conversation with Neatkarīgā that “every inhabitant of Latvia must understand that at one point the methods used to fight against Aivars Lembergs can turn against any other inhabitant. Normally, in politics, you fight for ideas that people will remember when they go to the polls. The point here is that if they fail to win a fair democratic election, they choose that childish path, showing everyone - see, I have power, and now I will knock you down a peg. Thus, the next law could be to prohibit Aivars Lembergs from walking through the Dome Square, to prohibit him from entering Riga and so on. At today's committee meeting, the petitioners justified that the amendments are not for one person, but in the end they say - yes, yes, they are, after all."

Asked about the fact that the Ministry of Justice, which must take care of the rule of law, sends anti-democratic and unconstitutional bills to the Saeima - whether idiots work in the ministry or the minister is a despot - V. Valainis explained: “It shows that that the Minister influences officials. I have had to work with these officials who come with these ideas. I can see that they are forced to do it. The minister and the ministry's leadership force them to do so and find ways to force them to come up with such ideas, which they would never normally do. We have already had examples in the past when a minister with a dubious understanding of things pushes through a dubious policy, which must then be corrected in the next Saeima. The fact that this is happening precisely in the field of justice does no credit to a democratic state. Under normal circumstances, such a minister should have been suspended a long time ago. If in the European Union Poland is often discussed, that the judiciary is influenced there, then in Latvia it is really happening. At least once every two months, we see actions from Bordāns that are completely against the post of Minister of Justice.”

A coalition operating as a dictatorship

Asked whether it is acceptable for the Minister of Justice to rebuke a Limbaži judge for his verdict, thus exerting severe pressure on the judiciary, while Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš pretends not to see it, V. Valainis said: “This is not the only case when the Prime Minister pretends not to see things. The head of government should have intervened and reacted every time the Minister of Justice influenced these independent institutions. There's no doubt that the Minister of Justice has a political influence on the judiciary when making various announcements about court rulings. This attitude is not acceptable to me either. But this is a coalition that has already started working as a dictatorship. Dictators usually say that there is no other alternative to power - they are the only and special ones. This coalition, just like a dictator, walks around and says there is no other alternative. They do this just to keep their positions. In this coalition, even if someone comes up with a bad idea, others support it just to keep their own positions. This coalition rarely listens to the voice of reason. But the good news is that this formation has less than a year left.”

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