We agitate, but «ethically». Ministerial influence on Saeima election

Government ministers in Latvia can openly voice support their political party, also during the campaigning period of the parliamentary election. Ministers take part in advertisements, events, give interviews to media, which will not be counted in the regulated limit of party spending, but only in case if such campaigning does not breach the norms of ethics.

In Latvian law, the role of a government minister during the election campaigning period is not clearly defined. Despite repeated recommendations to the Cabinet of Ministers by the Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (CPCB), the government has this far not decided to limit the role of ministers in the Saeima election.

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In 2018, one political party has turned to the CPCB about a member of the Union of Greens and Farmers, Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola, for her speaking in advertisements broadcast by the Latvian state radio Latvijas Radio.

When Amēlija Jaunskunga from the CPCB was asked how to deal with such situations and whether ministries really use their influence for political campaigning, she noted that this complaint is a «lesson» for the future.

The official explained that it has to be clearly defined in law, to what an extent ministers can or cannot participate in advertising campaigns, as well as the issues, about which ministries can inform the public and what to campaign for.

«Now, it would not be correct to blame someone for a violation. This should have been solved in time, but if it has not been done, today, we can only discuss this and prepare the new Saeima for the discussion to resurface so that the reasoning would be listened to and a solution would be found,» continued Jaunskunga.

However, the CPCB has stated that if the administrative resources of a ministry are used in a campaign, where «it is visible that a political party is praised», then it is considered a violation.

At the same time, it is difficult for watchdog authorities to prove this, as the common excuse is often used that «we inform the society».

With the Latvian parliamentary election coming on October 6, the 120-day-long period of pre-election campaigning is in force with strict limitations to campaigning in mass media and public places. Importantly, hidden political campaigning is banned.

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