Location: Northern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania Official name: Republic of Latvia Area Total: 64,589 sq km Country comparison to the world: 124 Land: 62,249 sq km Water: 2,340 sq km Area – comparative: Slightly larger than West Virginia Land boundaries: Total: 1,382 km Border countries: Belarus 171 km, Estonia 343 km, Lithuania 576 km, Russia 292 km Coastline: 498 km
Christianity is the largest religion traditionally practiced in Latvia. 2011 statistics: Lutheranism is the major Christian Lutheranism: 34.2% denomination among ethnic Latvians, owing to strong historical ties with the Nordic Roman Catholicism: 24.1% countries and Northern Germany. Eastern Orthodoxy: 17.8% Roman Catholicism is most widespread in Eastern Latvia (Latgale), owning in large part Old Believers: 1.6% to Polish influence. Other Christians: 1.2% The third biggest Christian church in Latvia is the Latvian Orthodox Church, whose Other/none: 21.1% members are an overwhelming majority Russian-speaking immigrants from Soviet times, and their offspring. Additionally, a significant portion of Latvians do not claim practice of any religion.
Latvia’s politics function in a structure of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the PM presides over the government and a multi-party structure. The President takes on a chiefly formal role as Head of State. The government exercises executive power. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament, the Saeima. The Judiciary is independent of both the executive and the legislature.
Capital (and largest city): Riga Official languages: Latvian Demonym: Latvian Government: Parliamentary republic President: Andris Bērziņš Prime Minister: Valdis Dombrovskis Legislature: Saeima
Office: President Office of President Parliament elects the President for a limit of two four-year terms, Name: Andris Bērziņš through a secret ballot and an absolute majority of the vote (Constitution of Latvia, Articles 35, 36 and 39). Party: Union of Greens and Farmers The President is a mostly traditional Head of State; in common with other presidents in parliamentary democracies, the President Since: 8 July 2011 of Latvia has influence and authority, as opposed to power. Even though the President is properly the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, approves treaties, represents Latvia overseas, and formally nominates diplomats and other important officials, these powers are constitutionally exercised on the PM’s obligatory recommendation; she/he is politically responsible for them (Constitution of Latvia, Article 53). On the other hand, the President does have personal judgment over the suggestion of legislation to Parliament, rejecting legislation, calling referendums on legislation, and appointing the PM. The President can additionally, in extremis, call a referendum on Parliament’s early termination: Parliament is terminated if the referendum passes; if the referendum fails, the President has to resign.
Office: Prime Minister Office of Prime Minister Name: Valdis Dombrovskis The President names the PM. Party: New Era Party The PM subsequently selects the Council of Ministers, or Since: 12 March 2009 Cabinet, which needs to be accepted Other government parties: by the Parliament. ZSS, TP, LPP, TB/LNNK, Civic Union The Parliament can dismiss the PM and her/his Cabinet through a no- confidence vote (Constitution of Latvia, Article 59).
The unicameral Parliament of Latvia (Saeima) consists of 100 affiliates, elected to a term of four years through proportional representation with a 5% threshold. Parliamentary elections in Latvia occur on the first Saturday of October. Locally, Latvia elects municipal councils, comprising 7-60 affiliates, depending on the municipality’s size, as well as through proportional representation to a four-year term.
Harmony Centre (Saskaņas Centrs, SC) Unity (Vienotība, V) Zatlers’ Reform Party (Zatlera reformu partija, ZRP) National Alliance (Nacionālā apvienība, NA) Union of Greens and Farmers (Zaļo un Zemnieku Savienība, ZZS) Latvia’s First Party/Latvian Way (Latvijas Pirmā Partija/Latvijas Ceļš, LPP/LC) For Human Rights in United Latvia (Par cilvēka tiesībām vienotā Latvijā, PCTVL)
Nominations of judges are confirmed by Parliament; with the exception of the Judicial Disciplinary Board’s decision or a criminal court’s ruling, those nominations are irreversible. There is also a special Constitutional Court that has the power to rule on the constitutionality of laws; its affiliates have to be confirmed through an absolute majority vote of Parliament, through a secret ballot.
Born 10 December 1944 in Nītaure. 8th and current President of Latvia; was sworn in on 8 July 2011 after having won the presidential election held on 2 June. Was the President of Latvijas Unibanka, a joint-stock company, from 1993-2004. Completed studies at a Nītaure primary school, in 1958; attended the first secondary school of Sigulda from 1958-1962. Later studied at the Riga Polytechnical Institute; graduated in 1971 and went on to be a radio engineer at the “Elektrons” factory. Worked his way to director position and was named deputy minister of municipal services of the Latvian SSR in 1988; also studied at the Latvian State University’s Economic Faculty, graduating in 1988. Was elected to the Valmiera district Council (Soviet) of People’s Deputies in 1989; was nominated chairman of the district’s administrative commission. Was elected to the Latvian SSR’s Supreme Council in 1990, and represented Valmiera, joining the Supreme Council’s Latvian Popular Front section. Voted for the declaration that won Latvia’s independence, on 4 May 1990. Became chairman of the Bank of Latvia’s Privatization Fund following the conclusion of his term as deputy in 1993; also owned a variety of land properties. Worked as a consultant to the Stockholms Enskilda Bank Latvian branch’s president; was a board affiliate of various joint-stock companies, such as Valmiera stikla šķiedra (Valmiera fiberglass) and Lode.
Born 5 August 1971 in Riga; was born to a family with Polish origins. PM of Latvia since 12 March 2009. Served as Minister of Finance from 2002-2004; was an MEP for the New Era Party. Obtained a bachelor’s degree in economics for engineers from Riga Technical University in 1995 and a master’s degree in physics from the University of Latvia in 1996. Worked as a laboratory subordinate at the University of Mainz’s Institute of Physics in Mainz, Germany from 1995-1996, as an assistant of the University of Latvia’s Institute of Solid-State Physics in 1997, and as a research assistant at the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1998.
Political alliance in Latvia; was founded in 2005 and its affiliate parties are the Social Democratic Party “Harmony” and the Socialist Party of Latvia (the Social Democratic Party “Harmony” was founded in 2010 when the National Harmony Party, the Social Democratic Party, the New Centre and later the Daugavpils City Party merged). Its chairman since the autumn of 2005 is journalist Nils Ušakovs (Riga city councillor and head of the NC Sergejs Dolgopolovs was its first chairman). Acquired 14.42% (130,887 votes) in the 2006 parliamentary election, taking 17/100 seats; became the fourth biggest parliamentary party and the second biggest opposition party. The alliance was joined in January 2009 by the Social Democratic Union (Latvian: Sociāldemokrātu savienība, SDS). Was the second most voted of Latvia’s parties in the 2009 EP election; won 19.57% (154,894 votes) and claimed 2/8 MEPs seats. Became the second Latvian political force and the largest opposition alliance in the 2010 parliamentary election; won 26.04% (251,397 votes) with 29/100 seats. Had the biggest number of votes (28.26%) and seats (31/100 seats) in the subsequent 2011 parliamentary election, although it remains in opposition – in part because of its political positions being seen by the majority ethnic-Latvian parties as unable to coexist with the national interests of the Latvian people. Its political positions include: Social democracy, progressive income taxation, minority rights, participatory democracy, internationalisation of higher education, and an improved relationship with Russia; in economic terms, it backs increased social spending for the purpose of boosting the economy and increasing the general wellbeing.
Liberal-conservative political party; was founded as an electoral alliance of New Era Party, the Civic Union and the Society for Other Politics on 6 March 2010. Was allegedly founded in an offer to create a counterbalance to the left-wing Harmony Centre alliance, whose numbers were elevating in polls and elections, while the other right-wing parties (People’s Party, For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK and LPP/LC) were under the 5% electoral threshold. The alliance became a sole political party on 6 August 2011. Is a member of the EPP at the European level. Solvita Āboltiņa, its current leader, is the Speaker of the Saeima. Valdis Dombrovskis is the current PM; five additional Unity affiliates serve as ministers in the current government.