The independent Latvian constitution, which was first adopted in 1922, was re-established in 1993 but has been amended several times since then. Parliament makes laws and is elected every four years in general elections. The Russian minority tends to vote for Russian-dominated parties, while the Latvians choose parties where Latvian speakers consider. The president is head of state and primarily has a representative role.
The legislative parliament, saeima, has 100 seats. The members are appointed in direct, proportional elections of four years. A party must get at least five percent of the vote in order to get a seat in Parliament. The voting age is 18 years. Non-citizens lack voting rights in both parliamentary and municipal elections.
- Countryaah: Total population and chart of Latvia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
The head of state and the head of the armed forces is the president, who in peacetime has the most representative functions but has a certain influence on foreign policy. The president is elected in a secret ballot in saeima for four years and may be elected for a maximum of two terms in a row. Former members of the Communist Party may not run for president.
The government is responsible to Parliament. The President proposes government leaders to be approved by Parliament. Other ministers are appointed by the prime minister. The President can dissolve Parliament, a measure that must be confirmed in a referendum. With a two-thirds majority, Saeima can dismiss the president.
Administration and the judiciary
Short for LV by Abbreviationfinder, Latvia is divided into 110 municipalities plus nine major cities.
Latvia’s judicial system consists of three levels of courts, with the Supreme Court being the highest court. The Constitutional Court reviews that the laws that are enacted are constitutional. The judiciary has had problems with a lack of qualified lawyers, inefficiencies and corruption, but it is gradually strengthened. In recent years, the state anti-corruption agency, Knab, has made progress with several notable cases in the public sector, but corruption is still a common problem.
Split has characterized domestic politics after independence. Parties have been built around people with power ambitions rather than ideological programs, which means that there are often major differences of opinion within one party. The voters’ sympathies have changed relatively quickly. Several coalition governments have been unstable and persecuted by corruption scandals. During the first two decades, several parties were under the influence of corruption-accused so-called oligarchs, who acquired wealth in the privatizations of the 1990s and then used them to influence or control politics.
Letters usually vote for Latvian-dominated parties and Russians for Russian-dominated. Many Russian-speaking residents lack voting rights. Only Latvian-dominated parties have been members of the government. Virtually all government parties have been in the middle or right of the political scale, with a market-friendly policy and support for the EU and NATO.
The right-wing Liberal Party Unity (Vienotība) was formed prior to the 2010 election by then-Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis as an alliance between the right-wing New Era, the Nationalist Citizens’ Union and the Social Liberal Society for Political Change. Unity has been in the government since the fall of 2010. The party was plagued early by internal contradictions, but was held together by the economic crisis and the goal of bringing Latvia into the euro zone. In the mid-2010s, the wear and tear returned, which contributed to the party giving up the Prime Minister’s post to the League of Green and Peasants (see Current policy). Before the 2018 elections, the party formed an alliance with some minor regional parties, but had no success among the electorate.
The League of Green and Peasants (Za ļ o un zemnieku savien ī ba, ZZS) was formed in 2002 and is an alliance of several parties. ZZS has been accused of being a tool for corruption-accused oligarch Aivars Lembergs. The party has had significant influence in several governments. It was put out of the government coalition in 2011, but again became part of the government after the 2014 election. The party backed strongly in the 2018 election.
The National Alliance (Nacionālā apvienība) was also included in the government after the 2014 elections. The party was formed in 2010 as a Latvian nationalist union between the All for Latvia and the Nationalist Party Fosterland and freedom. The party is dominated by ultranationalists from Everything for Latvia. The national alliance has been in the government since the new election in 2011. However, in the 2018 election, the party lost four seats in parliament compared to 2014.
The Reform Party (Reformu partija), which was the Unit’s most important coalition partner after the 2011 election, was dissolved in 2015. The Liberal Party was formed prior to the 2011 election by former President Valdis Zatlers under the name Zatler’s Reform Party. In the 2014 elections, the party put on a joint list of Unity.
The Harmonic Center (Saskaņas centrs, SC) is a Social Democratic-oriented party that was initially a five-party alliance. It changed its name to Harmony and became the biggest in the 2011 election – and by a small margin – also in 2014. But it has nevertheless found itself in the opposition. SC was founded in 2005 by several leftist and socialist parties and is dominated by ethnic Russians. SC has counteracted budget cuts, demanded increased social welfare and worked for citizenship and voting rights for all those born in Latvia. In the October 2018 elections, the party again became the largest and managed to capture a fifth of the vote.
Ahead of the EU and parliamentary elections in 2014, two new parties were formed, both of which managed to enter the Latvian Parliament by passing the five-percent barrier: Latvian Regions (Latvijas Reģionu Apvienība) and Latvia from the Heart (No sirds Latvijai), which has a conservative profile and works, among other things, for a moral upgrade.
Two relatively newly formed parties did well in the parliamentary elections in October 2018. The populist party Who owns the state? (Kam pieder valsts? KPV LV) came in second place while the New Conservative Party (Jaunā konservatīvā partija) came third.
Several previously influential parties have disappeared. The Conservative People’s Party (Tautas partija, TP) was formed in 1998 by the financier and former Prime Minister Andris Šķēle. TP held a strong position in several governments and was accused of corruption because of the influence of oligarch Šķēle on business and politics. The party dissolved in 2011.
The market liberal and EU-friendly Latvia’s road (Latvijas Ceļš, LC) was formed in 1993 and then played an important role in all governments until it disappeared from parliament in the elections in 2002. Four years later LC returned, then in alliance with Christian Democratic Latvia first party (Latvijas Pirmā Partija, LPP), led by oligarch Ainārs Šlesers. The partial alliance did not get a seat in Parliament after the 2011 election.
For Human Rights in a United Latvia (Par cilvēka tiesībām vienotā Latvijā, PCTVL) is a smaller left-wing party defending Russian-speaking and other minority rights and supported by Russian-speaking voters. In the 2010 election, PCTVL dropped out of parliament.