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The People’s Council

The Republic of Latvia was proclaimed on November 18, 1918. It's first legislative institution — the People’s Council — was established as a body of 40 members on November 17, 1918, as a result of an agreement among eight of Latvia’s democratic political parties and in co-operation with a representative of the Latgale Land Council. The political situation was such that elections could not be held at that time.

Mandates in the Council were not granted to individual persons. Each party had a certain number of seats in the Council, and these were filled by members authorized by the party. The members were often replaced. There were 183 seats in the Council, although the exact number of members is not known; historians cite two figures – 245 and 297.

The People’s Council held 57 general meetings. It had 22 standing committees. The Council elaborated a political platform which can be regarded as the first provisional Constitution (Satversme) of the Republic of Latvia, and it adopted several important laws on rural local governments and their election, on the Latvian monetary system, on educational institutions, on citizenship, and on the election of the Constitutional Assembly.

The People’s Council functioned until April 30, 1920. Its President was Janis Cakste, though he began chairing Council meetings only as of July 13, 1919.

 

The Constitutional Assembly

The Constitutional Assembly was Latvia’s first elected legislative body. Elections were held on April 17 and 18, 1920, and 84.9 % of those who had suffrage (677, 084 people) voted. There were 57 candidate lists covering 5 constituencies, and 16 of the lists won seats in the Assembly. One hundred fifty members, including 5 women, were elected altogether.

The Constitutional Assembly drafted the basic law of the state — the Satversme — as well as other laws. It adopted a law on agrarian reform, a law on the election of the Saeima (Parliament), and other laws. The Constitutional Assembly had 21 standing committees. It held 213 plenary sessions and adopted 205 laws and 291 regulations having the force of law. The President of the Constitutional Assembly was Janis Cakste. The Assembly functioned until November 7, 1922.

 

The First Saeima

The legislative work that was begun by the Constitutional Assembly was continued by the Saeima.

Under the Satversme, the Saeima was to be elected for a term of three years in general, equal, direct, secret and proportional elections. The mandate of the current Saeima ended when the new Saeima convened for its first session.

Elections of the 1st Saeima were held on October 7 and 8, 1922. A total of 82.2% (800,840 eligible voters) participated. Eighty-eight candidate lists were submitted, and 46 lists won seats in the Saeima.

Of the 100 elected Saeima Members, 84 were Latvians; 62 had a higher education, 22 had a secondary education, 7 had completed teacher training colleges and 9 had a primary education.  The statistical data change as the composition of the Saeima changes.

The number of parliamentary groups changed; when the 1st Saeima began its work there were 20 parliamentary groups. In the 1st Saeima there were 20 standing committees. It held 214 plenary sessions at which 343 draft laws were debated. Among the most important laws adopted were laws on the structure of the Cabinet of Ministers; on associations, unions and political organizations; and on meetings. The first Chairman of the Saeima was Fridrihs Vesmanis. On March 20, 1925, he was succeeded by Dr. Pauls Kalnins.

 

The Second Saeima

Elections of the 2nd Saeima were held on October 3 and 4, 1925. The turnout in the voting was 74.9% (838,800 eligible voters). Of the 141 candidate lists submitted, 48 won seats in the Saeima.

Of the 100 Saeima Members, 84 were Latvians; 55 had a higher education, 30 had a secondary education, and 15 had a primary education. The statistical data change as the composition of the Saeima changes.

The number of parliamentary groups in the 2nd Saeima changed, and at the beginning their number was 27. The 2nd Saeima had 20 standing committees. At 214 plenary sessions, 335 draft laws were debated. The 2nd Saeima focused on social and economic issues. The Chairman of the 2nd Saeima was Dr. Pauls Kalnins.

 

The Third Saeima

Elections of the 3rd Saeima were held on October 6 and 7, 1928. The turnout was 79.3% (937,968 eligible voters). Of 120 candidate lists, 54 won seats in the Saeima. Beginning with these elections, the submitters of each list had to pay a security deposit of 1,000 lats. The money was returned if at least one candidate from the list was elected in at least one of the constituencies.

Of the 100 Saeima Members, 80 were Latvians; 54 had a higher education, 28 had a secondary education, 4 had a higher or secondary military education and 14 had a primary education. The statistical data change as the composition of the Saeima changes.

There were 20 Standing Committees and 28 parliamentary groups in the 3rd Saeima. A total of 223 plenary sessions were held, and 344 draft laws were debated. The Chairman of the 3rd Saeima was Dr. Pauls Kalnins.

 

The Fourth Saeima

Elections of the 4th Saeima were held on October 3 and 4, 1931. The turnout was 80% (974,822 eligible voters). Of the 103 candidate lists submitted, 57 won seats in the Saeima.

Of the elected 100 Members, one was a woman; 83 were Latvians; 43 had a higher education, 39 had a secondary education, 12 had been educated at folk schools, 3 at military schools, 1 at an agricultural school, 1 at a trade school, and 1 Member was self-educated. The statistical data change as the composition of the Saeima changes.

The 4th Saeima had 18 standing committees and 25 parliamentary groups. During 185 plenary sessions, 312 draft laws were debated. Dr. Pauls Kalnins was again the Chairman of the Saeima. 

The 4th Saeima was dissolved after the coup of May 15, 1934, and its functions were taken over by the Cabinet of Ministers.

 

The Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia

Elections of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia were held on March 18, 1990. For the first time since the Soviet occupation, candidates from various political movements were allowed to run for parliament. The turnout was 81.25% (1,593,019 eligible voters).

Of the elected 201 members, 9 were women; 139 were Latvians; 185 had a higher education, 5 had an incomplete higher education, and 11 had a secondary education. The statistical data change as the composition of the Supreme Council changes.

There were 16 standing committees in the Supreme Council. The Supreme Council held 389 plenary sessions and adopted 404 laws, including the Constitutional Law on the Rights and Obligations of a Citizen and a Person. The 1937 Civil Law was reinstated, and laws were drafted to initiate the privatization process.

The Supreme Council specified a transition period for the de facto restoration of independent statehood. The transition period ended with the convening of the 5th Saeima. The Chairman of the Supreme Council was Anatolijs Gorbunovs.

 

The Fifth Saeima

Elections of the 5th Saeima were held on June 5 and 6, 1993. The legal basis for the elections was the Law on the Elections of the Fifth Saeima adopted on October 20, 1992. This was a slightly amended and modified version of the 1922 Saeima Election Law. The turnout was 89.9% (1,118,316 eligible voters); 18,413 citizens living abroad took part in the elections. Twenty-three candidate lists were submitted, and 8 won seats in the Saeima. The others did not pass the 4% vote threshold. Persons submitting candidate lists had to pay a security deposit equal to 50 minimum monthly salaries. The money was returned if at least one candidate from the list was elected in at least one of the constituencies.

Of the 100 elected Members, 15 were women; 88 were Latvians; 91 had a higher education, 4 had an incomplete higher education, and 5 had a secondary education.  The statistical data change as the composition of the Saeima changes.

The 5th Saeima had 15 standing committees. After the elections the Saeima had eight parliamentary groups. In the spring of 1994 their number increased by one when the Harmony for Latvia — Rebirth of National Economy parliamentary group split up.

The 5th Saeima held 137 plenary sessions and debated 839 draft laws. The Saeima reinstated the Satversme and the 1925 Law on the Structure of the Cabinet of Ministers, adopted the Citizenship Law and the Anti-Corruption Law, implemented local government reform, and ratified the agreement on the complete withdrawal of the Russian armed forces from Latvia. The Chairman of the 5th Saeima was Anatolijs Gorbunovs.

 

The Sixth Saeima

The elections of the 6th Saeima were held on September 30 and October 1, 1995. A total of 71.9% (955,392 eligible voters) cast ballots, including 12,501 citizens who voted abroad. Nineteen candidate lists were submitted, and 9 won seats in the Saeima; the others did not pass the 5% vote threshold. A security deposit of 1,000 lats was required, and the money was returned if at least one candidate from the list was elected in at least one of the constituencies.

Of the 100 elected Members, 8 were women; 90 had a higher education, 1 had an incomplete higher education, 6 had a secondary vocational education, and 3 had a general secondary education. The statistical data change as the composition of the Saeima changes.

There were 16 Standing Committees in the 6th Saeima, as well as several subcommittees and parliamentary inquiry committees. After the elections, nine parliamentary groups were formed (before the 8th Saeima parliamentary groups were called factions), but their number changed constantly during the Saeima’s term of office because on many occasions Members left one parliamentary group to join another. In December 1995 the Socialist Party/Equal Rights bloc broke up, but in November 1996 it again formed a parliamentary group which functioned until May 1997. In July 1996 the National Harmony Party parliamentary group broke up, but it began functioning anew in September 1997.

The parliamentary group of the Latvian Unity Party functioned from the elections until February 1997. In July 1996 the Members who had left the For Latvia parliamentary group formed a new parliamentary group, For Nation and Justice, which functioned until February 1997.

In June 1997 the parties For Fatherland and Freedom and LNNK (Latvian National Independence Movement) merged, and a parliamentary group bearing both names was established. Prior to that, LNNK had formed a parliamentary group with the Latvian Green Party. After the withdrawal of LNNK in June 1997, a parliamentary group was formed by the Latvian National Reform Party and the Latvian Green Party. The parliamentary group consisting of Latvia’s Farmers Union, the Christian Democratic Union, and the Latgale Democratic Party functioned until November 1997, when a parliamentary group of Latvia’s Farmers Union and the Christian Democratic Union was formed. The parliamentary group of the people’s union Freedom functioned from September 1997 to January 1998. On July 28, 1998, the Labour Party, the Christian Democratic Union, and the Latvian Green Party united to form a joint parliamentary group, which functioned until the term of office of the 6th Saeima’s expired.

During the 6th Saeima, the membership of the Democratic Party Saimnieks parliamentary group increased while that of Latvia’s Way and For Latvia parliamentary groups decreased. The number of unaffiliated Members fluctuated, reaching more than 20 Members at some points.

The 6th Saeima held 197 plenary sessions at which 1,335 draft laws were debated. The 6th Saeima approved significant amendments to the Satversme providing that parliamentary elections henceforth would be held on one day only and that beginning with the 7th Saeima the term of office of the Saeima would be four years instead of three. It also added to the Satversme a Chapter on Fundamental Human Rights and adopted the Civil Procedure Law.

The first Chairperson of the 6th Saeima was Dr. Ilga Kreituse. On September 26, 1996, she was succeeded by Alfreds Cepanis.

 

The Seventh Saeima

In keeping with the constitutional amendment, for the first time in the history of Latvia the Saeima elections took place on one day only, namely, on October 3, 1998. Altogether 944, 667 persons, or 71.9 % of all Latvian citizens eligible to vote, took part in the elections; 10,080 Latvian citizens cast their votes abroad. Twenty-one candidate lists were submitted, but only 6 lists won seats in the Saeima; the other lists did not pass the 5% vote threshold. A security deposit of 1,000 lats was required, and the money was returned if at least one candidate from the list was elected in at least one of the constituencies.

Of the 100 elected Members, 17 were women; 84 were Latvians; 94 Members had a higher education, 4 had a secondary vocational education, and 2 had a secondary education.  The statistical data change as the composition of the Saeima changes.

There were 16 standing committees, 14 subcommittees and 5 inquiry committees in the 7th Saeima. After the election of the Saeima, six parliamentary groups were formed (before the 8th Saeima parliamentary groups were called factions). On January 5, 2001, five Members of parliament who had left the New Party formed the New parliamentary group, which existed until March 2002. The parliamentary group of the Union of Latvian Social Democrats was renamed the Latvian Social Democratic Workers’ Party parliamentary group in May 1999. In addition, in January 2002 the Members of parliament who had left the Latvian Social Democratic Workers’ Party parliamentary group established the Social Democrats Union parliamentary group.

In comparison with the previous Saeima, there were few unaffiliated Members of parliament during the 7th Saeima: at the beginning of the term of office there was 1; in January 2002 there were 3; in March 2002 there were 7; and at the end of the Saeima there were 8.

During the 7th Saeima 1,442 draft laws were reviewed, and 917 laws were adopted. The most significant of them were the Law on Amendments to the Constitution, the Law on the State Administration System, the Law on Electronic Documents, the Commercial Law, Amendments to the Law on the Administrative Process and amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code.

The Chairman of the 7th Saeima was Janis Straume.   

      

The Eighth Saeima

The elections of the 8th Saeima were held on October 5, 2002. A total of 997,754 eligible voters (71.51%) cast ballots, including 7,490 who voted abroad. Twenty candidate lists were submitted; however, only 6 parties and associations of political parties passed the 5% vote threshold and won seats in the Saeima.

Of the 100 elected members of parliament, there were 18 women; 79 Latvians, 14 Russians, 1 Pole, 1 Jew, 1 Karelian and 4 members who have not specified their ethnic origin. Ninety-three members of parliament have a higher education, 4 have a secondary vocational education and 3 have a general secondary education. The statistical data change as the composition of the Saeima changes.

There were 17 standing committees, 13 subcommittees and 1 parliamentary inquiry committee in the 8th Saeima. Six parliamentary groups were formed after the elections. During the convocation of the 8th Saeima, the number of members did not change in the People’s Party parliamentary group and the Greens and Farmers Union parliamentary group. The number of members increased in the Latvia’s First Party parliamentary group, while the number of members in the New Era parliamentary group slightly decreased.

On 19 February 2003, 17 members of parliament who left the For Human Rights in a United Latvia parliamentary group formed the People’s Harmony Party parliamentary group. The number of members in this parliamentary group gradually decreased, and since 27 October 2005 it is called the Concord Centre parliamentary group.

On 13 June 2003, the parliamentary group of the Union of Political Organisations For Human Rights in a United Latvia ceased to exist; however, it was restored on 29 August with a different composition. On 12 June 2003, 5 members of parliament formed Latvia’s Socialist Party parliamentary group.

During the 8th Saeima, as during the 7th Saeima, there were few unaffiliated members of parliament. Their number fluctuated from one to six. For a short period – from 1 September 2003 to 9 February 2004 – there were no unaffiliated members of parliament.
During the 8th Saeima, 1,934 draft laws were reviewed, and 1272 laws were adopted. The most significant of them were the Law on Associations and Foundations, the Law on Ending the Privatisation of National and Municipal Property and Expiration of Privatisation Vouchers, and the Criminal Procedure Law. As a result of accession to the European Union, ceratin laws and regulations were harmonised with the legislation of the European Union.
The Speaker of the 8th Saeima was Ingrida Udre.

The Ninth Saeima

The elections of the 9th Saeima were held on October 7, 2006. A total of 908,979 eligible voters (60.98%) cast ballots, including 7,580 who voted abroad. Nineteen candidate lists were submitted; however, only 7 parties and associations of political parties passed the 5% vote threshold and won seats in the Saeima.

Of the 100 elected members of parliament, there are 19 women; 78 Latvians, 15 Russians, 1 Jew, 1 Karelian, 1 German and 4 members who have not specified their ethnic origin. Ninety-five members of parliament have a higher education and 5 have a general secondary education. The statistical data change as the composition of the Saeima changes.
There are 17 standing committees in the 9th Saeima and 6 parliamentary groups.

Initially, the Speaker of the 9th Saeima was Indulis Emsis, but since 24 September 2007 the Speaker of the 9th Saeima is Gundars Daudze.

 

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