Although the total number of voters did increase during 14th Saeima elections, the number of Latvian voters abroad actually went down. Latvians living abroad and who organised the previous Saeima elections in those countries accuse the Central Elections Commission (CVK) of negligence and complicated requirements for the organisation of elections abroad, as reported by TV3 programme Nekā personīga.
Four years ago 844 thousand Latvian citizens with voting rights or 54.6% participated in the 13th Saeima elections. Nearly 32 thousand of them voted in foreign countries. In the 14th Saeima elections there were more voters – 916 thousand or 59.43% of citizens with voting rights.
The number of Latvian citizens who voted abroad, however, is much lower when compared to the last Saeima elections – slightly more than 26 thousand.
For example, the biggest Latvian diaspora is located in Britain, where more than 130 000 Latvian citizens are registered with different British databases. However, for the 14th Saeima elections there were only nine election sites there (19 for 13th Saeima elections).
In 2018 there was a requirement in place that allowed election sites to be opened by at least two people. However, the 13th Saeima had CVK amend multiple laws that govern elections. For example, election sites will be allowed to be organised outside of embassies if signatures of at least 36 potential voters are received in support.
CVK explains that 36 was the is the smallest number of voters observed at the previous Saeima elections. This is it it was picked at the threshold.
According to the head of the election site in British city of Rugby Vera Antipova, voting in foreign countries was sabotaged by CVK’s unreasonable requirements. For example, the requirement to find IT specialists for locals in order to prepare the election site.
«I think the guidelines from CVK was more complicated than what many are used to. This intimidated many. I know that in the neighbouring city of Peterborough, where there are many local Latvians, they didn’t want to do it [establish an elections site] because they would have to look for an IT specialist. This complicated things so much that people became intimidated,» says Antipova.
According to the programme, the general turnout in the previous elections in Peterborough was the second biggest across Britain.
This year, however, locals lacked the motivation and CVK could not promise to cover the rent fee – would was estimated at 20 GBP per hour. This is why there was no election site in Peterborough.
The situation was similar in Sweden. In Gothenburg the local Latvian community estimated that the distances people have to travel in Sweden are too large to afford visiting Latvians in order to collect the necessary 36 signatures. This is why no voting was organised in Gothenburg, Malmö or Örebro this time, the programme reports.
According to CVK chairperson Kristīne Bērziņa, the commission took money from its reserves to cover creation of voluntary election sites, rent and wages, but there isn’t much to work with. The commission pays for organisers’ work on election day whenever possible, but in accordance with Latvian, not foreign rates.
«Our budget is limited. If we cannot borrow equipment for foreign election sites, we consider the costs and cover them whenever we can, but only if it meets our budget. If we don’t have the money, we cannot cover related costs,» explained Bērziņa.