1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
Former Latvian president Valdis Zatlers
Zatlers called the referndum in response to corruptionImage: AP

Money talks

July 24, 2011

The people of Latvia have decided to send their elected representatives packing in a bid to clean up the nation's corruption-tainted politics. Elections for a new parliament are expected in September.


Latvians overwhelmingly voted to dissolve their national parliament on Saturday in a referendum called to challenge the power of so-called "oligarchs" who straddle the line between business and politics.

The Latvian people decided with 95 percent of the vote to dissolve the current 100-member parliament and hold snap elections in September. Former president Valdis Zatlers had called the referendum in May just before leaving office.

"I got fed up of living in a country ruled by lies, cynicism and greed," Zatlers said on the eve of the referendum.

"I have opened the door to change," he continued. "Now it is up to you to step through it and feel that you can take control of your own destiny."

'Oligarch' businessmen

The move by the former president was designed to target moneyed interests in parliament. Zatlers called the referendum after the legislature refused to lift the immunity of "oligarch" lawmaker Ainars Slesers, thereby hampering a corruption probe. Slesers is the leader of a pro-business opposition party and one of Latvia's richest men.

"I believe this is a good opportunity to ensure that parties which represent oligarch interests or vote in the interest of oligarchs will not have the majority in the next parliament," Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis told journalists after the vote.

Latvia is currently coming out of the European Union's worst recession. The small Baltic country's economy plummeted 18 percent in 2009 after implementing austerity measures in response to the economic crisis.

Zatlers, who has formed his own political party, is now well positioned to join a coalition government in the upcoming September elections.

Author: Spencer Kimball (Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

The jacket of an investigating official reads "War Crimes Prosecutor"

Ukraine: NGOs help prosecutors document Russian war crimes

Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage