Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter February 8, 2017

Drafting the Preamble for the Satversme: A New Approach to one of the Oldest Still-Functioning Republican Basic Laws

Kristīne Jarinovska
From the journal ICL Journal


The Constitution of the Republic of Latvia (the Satversme) is the oldest East Central European constitution still in force and the sixth oldest still-functioning specimen of republican basic laws in the world. Unlike other Baltic states, Latvia did not have to adopt a new constitution after re-establishing its constitution previously in force before the So­viet occupation. Laconic wording, sufficiency and precision of norms and yet substantial regulatory coverage, on the one hand, and holding to the established légistique tradition, on the other hand, made it possible for the Satversme to step into the 21st century. Along with its longevity and precise drafting, there is a further aspect which makes the Satversme special. In drafting the Satversme, the Constitutional Assembly followed the constitutional trends of the time, with direct popular participation being one of them. Replicating traditions of the 1919 German Constitution, it provides multiple forms of direct popular participation. Moreover, there are some limitations with respect to the subjects of referenda and the tim­ing for organising referenda. Nonetheless, these prove to be few. While designed to em­power citizenry engagement within the process of legal framing, these limitations have recently been associated with problems related to the misuse of popular will.

Though the legal system of Latvia provides several ways to prevent the misuse of popular will through administrative measures, judicature, constitutional justice and legislation, nei­ther of these were effectively used to solve ‘constitutional strokes’. Similarly, the quest of legal scholars for a cure for the misuse of popular will within the prevailing ‘dogma on perfection of the Satversme’ reached a deadlock. Thus, the cure for the strokes has been sought within constitutional theory, in particular by defining ‘the core of the Satversme’ in the preamble of the Satversme. This article discusses the preamble of the Satversme, its historical background and its travaux préparatoires.

Published Online: 2017-2-8
Published in Print: 2015-6-1

© 2017 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston