The Saeima (Latvian pronunciation: [ˈsai.ma]) is the parliament of the Republic of Latvia. It is a unicameral parliament consisting of 100 members who are elected by proportional representation, with seats allocated to political parties which gain at least 5% of the popular vote. Elections are scheduled to be held once every four years, normally on the first Saturday of October. The most recent elections were held in October 2018.
|Founded||7 November 1922|
Supported by (8)
Length of term
|Open list proportional representation with a 5% electoral threshold|
|6 October 2018|
|House of the Livonian Noble Corporation, Riga|
The President of Latvia can dismiss the Saeima and request early elections. The procedure for dismissing it involves substantial political risk to the president, including a risk of loss of office. On 28 May 2011 president Valdis Zatlers decided to initiate the dissolution of the Saeima, which was approved in a referendum, and the Saeima was dissolved on 23 July 2011.
History and etymologyEdit
The Saeima traces its origins to the Sejm of the Kingdom of Poland, which led to the creation of the Sejm (Seimas) of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later to the creation of the Sejm of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Livonia, a part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, was exposed to the Polish mode of administration and introduced to the Sejm-system. Most of today's Latvia, incorporated into 3 voivodeships: the Dorpat Voivodeship, the Parnawa Voivodeship and the Wenden Voivodeship, in total sent 6 senators to the Sejm of the Poland. However, the rest of Latvia belonged to the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, which as a direct fief of the Commonwealth (therefore not a member of the Union with equal rights) was governed by the Sejm, but could not send its own senators to it. Local councils called sejmik (little Sejm) stretched across all of Latvia.
The word sejm derives from the verb "sjąć się" meaning "to get together", with similar words in some other Slavic languages, of proto-Slavic origin *sъjęti < *sъjemti Sejm, then, as a noun meant "a gathering, a meeting, a council.”
In the 19th century, as the concept of nations began to emerge, Juris Alunāns, a member of a Latvian nationalist group called the Young Latvians, claimed ownership to the word "Saeima". Despite exactly the same sound, same semantic structure and clear historical connotations, he claimed that it was a purely Latvian word that he had invented. As mentioned earlier, the word bears the same meaning: "a gathering, a meeting, a council". Juris Alunāns claimed that he “constructed“ it completely independently of the historical context spanning centuries and independently of the contemporarily functioning sejms in the Duchy of Warsaw, Congress Poland, Grand Duchy of Poznan and Galicia. He claimed that the word he constructed stemmed from the archaic Latvian word eima instead, meaning "to go" (derived from the PIE *ei "to go" and also a cognate with the Ancient Greek eimi, Gaulish eimu, among others).
He could not explain, however, how the s- prefix got added to the word, and what sense this addition made within the limits of the Latvian language. Nevertheless, according to Juris, the word is purely Latvian and completely independent of the aforementioned historical context. However, the prefix sa- to a verb in modern Latvian language usually stands for a complete action and the word "Saeima" can stand for a meaning "Let's gather together completely".
In the pre-war Latvia, the Saeima was elected for three-year terms. The 1st Saeima met from 7 November 1922 to 2 November 1925, the 2nd from 3 November 1925 to 5 November 1928, the 3rd from 6 November 1928 to 2 November 1931, and the 4th from 3 November 1931 to 15 May 1934 (date of the Latvian coup d'état).
The Saeima is an entirely elected body. All Latvian citizens (including naturalized citizens) over the age of 18 are eligible to vote. Candidates must be qualified to vote, but must also be over 21, must not be former employees of the USSR, Latvian SSR, or affiliated organizations, must not have been convicted of a criminal offence or deemed to be of diminished mental capacity.
The term of the Saeima is four years. An election may be called early, but doing so is more complicated than in other parliamentary democracies. If the President proposes that the Saeima be dissolved, a national referendum must be held to confirm the dissolution. If the dissolution is not approved, the President is removed from office. If one-tenth of the electorate signs a petition demanding a dissolution, a referendum can be held without the involvement of the President.
Seats are distributed in each constituency by open list proportional representation among the parties that overcome a 5% national election threshold using an unmodified version of the Webster/Sainte-Laguë method.
Voters cast a vote for a party list, which consists of the candidates that the party has submitted in that constituency. Although a specific ordering is listed for each candidate, which is determined by the party, this has no effect on the actual chances of each candidate. Instead, voters cast "specific votes" for candidates. These votes can be either positive votes or negative votes. The number of votes for each candidate is determined by taking the number of votes for the respective list, and adding it to the candidate's positive votes, before subtracting the number of negative votes for that candidate. The candidates with the highest number of votes fill the party's seats. A positive vote is indicated by drawing a plus sign (+) next to the candidate's name on the ballot paper. A negative vote is indicated by crossing out the candidate's name. Voters may only cast specific votes for the candidates on the list that they voted for.
It is uncommon for any party to achieve more than 30% of the vote in an election. The record is 32.4% for the Latvian Way party in the 1993 election. This means that a coalition has always been necessary.
If a seat falls vacant during a term of the Saeima, it is filled by the next candidate on the appropriate list.
The Communist Party of Latvia is the only political party that is banned.
Most recent electionEdit
Summary of the 6 October 2018 Latvian Saeima election results
|Who Owns the State?||120,264||14.25||16||New|
|New Conservative Party||114,694||13.59||16||+16|
|Union of Greens and Farmers||83,675||9.91||11||–10|
|Latvian Association of Regions||35,018||4.14||0||–8|
|Latvian Russian Union||27,014||3.20||0||0|
|For Latvia from the Heart||7,114||0.84||0||–7|
|For an Alternative||2,900||0.34||0||New|
|SKG Union (LSDSP–KDS–GKL)||1,735||0.20||0||New|
|Eurosceptic Action Party||1,059||0.12||0||New|
|Latvian Centrist Party||897||0.10||0||New|
- "Zatlers nolemj rosināt Saeimas atlaišanu" [Zatlers decides to initiate thedissolution of the Saeima]. Delfi (in Latvian). May 28, 2011. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
- Aleksander Brückner, Słownik etymologiczny języka polskiego, 2005 Krakowska spółka wydawnicza, s. 502
- Zuicena, Ieva; Migla, Ilga (2008). "Jura Alunāna devums latviešu leksikogrāfijā" (PDF). LU Raksti (in Latvian). 731: 75. ISSN 1407-2157. Retrieved 2010-05-27.
- "Law on the Election of the Saeima".