My sincerest congratulations to all of you on 100 years of our democracy!
Today marks exactly 100 years since the first sitting of our first parliament, Constitutional Assembly of Latvia, on 1 May 1920. Parliament elected by all citizens of Latvia in free elections.
Constitutional Assembly was the fulfilment of the dream for all politically and socially active Latvians. Their vision of Latvia’s future was always based on the concept of Constitutional Assembly, the idea that all Latvian citizens elect their representatives who shape the future of the country. Constitutional Assembly elections showed that the new state has been successfully created and the embodiment of national aspirations of Latvians, state of Latvia, will live and thrive forever.
Victory in the War of Independence led to election of the Constitutional Assembly, ensured high voter turnout and firm support of citizens for strong, independent and democratic Latvia. During the War of Independence people took up arms to fight for the future of the new state, while Constitutional Assembly gave the nation a vehicle of self-determination and epitomised people’s will to live in free and democratic republic.
Constitutional Assembly gave the whole Latvian nation across Latvian lands a vehicle of self-determination, becoming the expression of common destiny and desires. Constitutional Assembly, a single parliament for all nation, was elected by all Latvian citizens across the territory of Latvia, and for the first time in its history Latvian nation could work together on its common future in a unified state.
Constitutional Assembly had to shape the foundation of the new state, decide on most important aspects of its future growth and development. People voted for Constitutional Assembly because they needed the constitution and farming reform. Farming reform, in particular, brought the much-needed social peace to Latvian society and recovery of war-devastated economy in this new economic format. Constitutional Assembly also had to draft numerous vital laws for the newly established state and bring peace and international recognition for Latvia.
Constitutional Assembly tackled these tasks with high sense of responsibility towards the Latvian nation and future generations. Their efforts led to the rise of democracy in Latvia, and even today, hundred years later, Latvia still lives by the ground rules and the decisions of the Constitutional Assembly.
Constitutional Assembly embodied the social diversity and also the social contradictions of the Latvian society. Each member of Constitutional Assembly represented numerous Latvian citizens who had entrusted their desires and dreams to them. But, when it came to most crucial issues, Constitutional Assembly voted unanimously, and its decisions were unanimously supported by the whole nation.
Constitutional Assembly decided that Latvia must be a free, independent and democratic republic, and all sovereign power belongs to the people.
Our Constitutional Assembly chose parliamentary democracy for Latvia.
State of Latvia is the common concern, common responsibility and common project of the Latvian nation. That was the vision of the Constitutional Assembly hundred years ago that we hold dear to this day.
The first hundred years of Latvian democracy have not been easy.
This past century has been riddled with disillusionment with parliamentary democracy and willingness to give it up all too easy for the sake of authoritarianism, as well as attempts of totalitarian occupation forces of communist Russia and Nazi Germany to wipe Latvia off the face of the Earth, exterminate Latvian nation and destroy its national aspirations.
This century has also given us strong democrats who relentlessly supported and defended Latvia’s independence and democracy through various periods of time. We have witnessed the revival of democracy and return of constitutionally established political system in these hundred years.
On the eve of the 30th anniversary of 4 May Declaration, we can appreciate all the advantages of parliamentary democracy.
Parliamentary democracy is a symbol and reflection of our common collective responsibility for Latvia. Our country has never believed in iron-fist or single-leader rule where one ruler would decide the fate of the rest.
Every citizen has the right and duty to participate in the governing of this country. We collectively rule the country – everyone is free to seek support among like-minded people and convince others of the merits of vision and ideas shared by them.
Democracy means that we ourselves are responsible for our future. Our knowledge, skills and decisions determine what our future will look like. Democracy needs participation of all citizens. Everyone must be actively involved in national political processes.
I would like to appeal to all Latvian citizens: be active and engage in our democratic processes. Follow the news, try to understand problems, discuss issues of national significance with your families and friends, never stop learning and perfecting knowledge and skills required to be fully involved in shaping our common destiny.
We must also honour the members of the Constitutional Assembly today who represented people’s interests. Our democracy has always relied on strong democrats.
Constitutional Assembly was their time to shine. Jānis Čakste and Rainis, Francis Trasuns and Pauls Šīmanis, Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics and Marģers Skujenieks, Fēlikss Cielēns and Arveds Bergs, and many others were part of it.
As we celebrate democracy, I urge everyone to spend some time to learn more and tell others about our strongest democrats and their lives. We must promote and strengthen democracy at all times – on national holidays and in our everyday life.
May Latvia’s democracy never falter!
May we never falter in our belief in democracy!