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The system of government of the Republic of Latvia takes the form of a parliamentary democracy. Latvia was founded on 18 November 1918 and the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia was adopted on 15 February 1922. As a result of the onset of World War II, Latvia lost its independence in the years1940-1991.


In 1990, the people of Latvia elected a majority of pro-independence deputies to the Supreme Council of Latvia. On 4 May 1990 the Supreme Council voted to restore full independence following a transition period. On 3 March 1991, 87 percent of all residents of Latvia participated in a referendum on independence, and 73 percent voted in favour. On 21 August 1991, following the collapse of Soviet Union, the Latvian Supreme Council adopted a resolution for the full restoration of Latvian independence. The first elections to the Latvian Parliament following the regaining of independence were held on 5-6 June 1993.

The President is the Head of State and the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of Latvia. The Saeima elects the President, by secret ballot and with a majority of the votes of at least fifty-one members of the Saeima (Article 36 of the Constitution). The President is elected for a term of four years and any one person may hold the office of the President for a maximum of two consecutive terms. The office of the President may not be held concurrently with any other office.

The President promulgates laws, nominates a Prime Minister to form a new government (which nomination is approved by the Saeima) and performs representative functions. The President represents the State in international relations, appoints the diplomatic representatives of Latvia and implements decisions of the Saeima concerning the ratification of international agreements (Article 41 of the Constitution).

Executive power is vested in the Cabinet (the Government) which is composed of the Prime Minister and the Ministers chosen by the Prime Minister. The Cabinet has the right to submit draft laws to the Saeima pursuant to Article 65 of the Constitution. The Government also determines the State Budget, which it must also submit to the Saiema for approval, together with records of budgetary expenses (Article 66 of the Constitution). The Prime Minister and other Ministers must have the confidence of the Saeima and they are accountable to the Saeima for their actions (Article 59 of the Constitution). If the Saeima expresses no confidence in the Prime Minister, the entire Cabinet must resign.

The Saeima, a unicameral parliament, consisting of 100 deputies exercises legislative power. Parliamentary elections take place every four years and are conducted according to the electoral system of proportional representation. Legislative power is also delegated to the Cabinet by virtue of Article 81 of the Constitution, whereby Ministers may adopt regulations with the force of law in specific cases as well as, amend laws adopted by previous parliaments. However, such amendments to law, enacted by the Cabinet of Ministers may not cover the field of matters coming within the scope of authority of the Saeima.

The legislative process begins upon the initiative of either of the Cabinet of Ministers or, at least 5 members of the Saeima, or, a parliamentary committee or, at least one tenth of all voters or the President of the State. The draft Bill is submitted to the Saeima. The Board of the Saeima sends it to the standing committee responsible for the particular matter addressed by the Bill. Following review, correction and final elaboration of the text by the appropriate parliamentary committee, the Bill receives three readings at plenary sessions of the Saiema, where it is subjected to voting. If the Bill is passed it is delivered to the President who promulgates the law between the seventh and twenty-first day following adoption. The President may also file request with the Saiema for reconsideration of the law. If Parliament does not amend the law according to the recommendations, the President may not raise objections a second time (Article 71 of the Constitution). The new law enters into force four days following promulgation (Article 69 of the Constitution).

The President or one-third of the members of the Saeima has the right to suspend the proclamation of a law for a period of two months. The suspended law is put to national referendum if requested by at least one-tenth of the electorate. If no such request is received during the two-month suspension period, the law will be proclaimed. A national referendum may not take place if the Saeima again votes on the law and at least three-quarters of all members of the Saeima vote for its adoption.

A draft law submitted for national referendum will be deemed adopted if the number of voters is at least half of the number of electors as participated in the previous Saeima election and if the majority has voted in favour of the draft law.

Judicial power is vested in the courts. Pursuant to Article 83 of the Constitution, judges are independent and subject only to the law. Latvia has a three-tiered court system, consisting of the Supreme Court, regional courts, and district (city) courts. Judicial appointments are approved by the Saeima and are irrevocable. The Saeima may remove judges from office against their will only in the cases provided for by law, based upon a decision of the Judicial Disciplinary Board or a judgment of the Court in a criminal case.

The Constitutional Court Law was passed and took effect on 28 June 1996. TheConstitutional Courtreviews cases concerning the compliance of laws with the Constitution and may declare laws or any other enactment or parts thereof, invalid. Seven judges are seated on the bench of the Constitutional Court. The Saeima approves the judges by secret ballot with a majority of the votes of at least fifty-one members. The term of office of a judge of the Constitutional Court is ten years.

Among others, the State Human Rights Bureau and the Council of the State Control have been given the right to submit an application for constitutional review with the Constitutional Court. However, general courts and citizens of the State do not have the right to submit their applications directly to the Constitutional Court.

The Saeima may amend the Constitutionin sittings attended by at least two-thirds of the deputies of the Saeima. The amendments must be passed in three readings by a majority of at least two-thirds of the deputies present. If the Saeima amends the first, second, third, fourth, sixth or seventy-seventh Article of the Constitution, such amendments, in order to come into force as law, must be put to national referendum. The Constitution may also be amended by popular initiative. An amount of at least one tenth of the electorate has the right to submit a draft of an amendment to the Constitution or a law to the President, who then presents it to the Saeima (Article 78 of the Constitution). If the Saeima does not adopt it without change, it will be decided upon by way of national referendum (Article 79).

An amendment to the Constitution put to national referendum will be adopted where at least half of the electorate votes in favour.


Latvia is:

  • OSCE Participating State since 10 September 1991
  • Member State of the United Nations since 17 September 1991
  • Member State of the Council of Europe since 10 February 1995
  • Member State of the European Union since 1 May 2004

Status of Ratification of the Main International Human Rights Treaties, Conventions and other instruments

01 July 2008
CoE Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (2008)
25 July 2006
International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2007)
04 January 2006
UN Convention against Corruption (2003)

Legal Reviews

Opinion on the Law on the Bureau on Prevention and Combating of Corruption of Latvia

Date : 17 November 2014 English [0.60 MB]