Democratic Consolidation in Eastern Europe - Vol. 1

By Jan Zielonka | Go to book overview

5 Rebuilding Democracy in Latvia: Overcoming a Dual Legacy

Adolf Sprudzs

Compared to other post-communist states, constitutional engineering has been extremely difficult in Latvia. In 1990, Latvian democratizers simply reinstated the 1922 Latvian Constitution with a few minor amendments, as a logical legal step in Latvia's struggle for independence from the USSR. This was significant because it expressed Latvia's right to self-determination by lifting the yoke of Soviet occupation and re-establishing its formerly democratic nation-state. The Constitution's readoption enhanced the legitimacy of the new regime and had a stabilizing effect on the newly independent state. When the Baltic 'singing revolutions' helped bring about the collapse of the Soviet empire, 1 Latvia still had the necessary elements for once again becoming an independent state—territory, population, and state power. However, in 1990 the social environment was quite different from that of the 1920s and 1930s. 2 Thus, there was a price to pay for high legitimacy and quick stabilization: Latvia had to grapple with the problems of two historical legacies—those of the inter-war independence period and the Soviet era. Although lauded as Latvia's golden past, the inter-war democracy had many problems, some of which stemmed directly from the institutional structure embodied in the 1922 Constitution. In addition to creating an inherently unstable government,

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