Protests against municipal reform staged on Latvia's roads

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-05 22:33:42|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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RIGA, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Motorists from many regions of Latvia blocked roads with their automobiles and tractors on Thursday in protest against a municipal reform planned by the Baltic nation's center-right government coalition, local media reported.

The protests on Latvia's roads were staged as lawmakers started hearing a bill on the reform intended to reduce the fragmentation of the country's administrative map by merging several small municipalities into larger ones in order to consolidate resources.

According to the original plan, proposed by the Regional Development Ministry, the number of Latvia's municipalities would have been reduced from 199 to 35. But later the government agreed to add one more municipality and allowed three more cities to remain as separate municipalities without merging them with their respective surrounding districts.

The reform plan triggered the motorized demonstration, which was staged in at least 20 districts and two cities.

With 40 local governments' support, protestors drove their vehicles at the speed of 10 km per hour, honking their horns.

Police who monitored the protest acknowledged that the motorists complied with traffic rules and the protest passed off peacefully without incidents.

Meanwhile, around 200 people with posters in their hands gathered outside the parliament building in Riga to express their opposition to the controversial reform. Residents of Latvia's northwestern port city of Ventspils, for instance, demanded an autonomous status for their city.

The municipal reform bill's passage through parliament is likely to be a time-consuming process. But lawmakers want to adopt all the necessary legislation by May 2020, before the next municipal elections.