Ždanoka v Latvia, 16 March 2004 [ECtHR]

Case no 58278/00

The Court’s observations in conclusion

132.  The Latvian authorities’ view that even today the applicant’s former position in the CPL, coupled with her stance during the events of 1991 (see, in particular, paragraphs 123-24 above), still warrant her exclusion from standing as a candidate to the national parliament, can be considered to be in line with the requirements of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1. The impugned statutory restriction as applied to the applicant has not been found to be arbitrary or disproportionate. The applicant’s current or recent conduct is not a material consideration, given that the statutory restriction in question relates only to her political stance during the crucial period of Latvia’s struggle for “democracy through independence” in 1991.

133.  While such a measure may scarcely be considered acceptable in the context of one political system, for example in a country which has an established framework of democratic institutions going back many decades or centuries, it may nonetheless be considered acceptable in Latvia in view of the historico-political context which led to its adoption and given the threat to the new democratic order posed by the resurgence of ideas which, if allowed to gain ground, might appear capable of restoring the former regime.

134.  The Court therefore accepts in the present case that the national authorities of Latvia, both legislative and judicial, are better placed to assess the difficulties faced in establishing and safeguarding the democratic order. Those authorities should therefore be left sufficient latitude to assess the needs of their society in building confidence in the new democratic institutions, including the national parliament, and to answer the question whether the impugned measure is still needed for these purposes, provided that the Court has found nothing arbitrary or disproportionate in such an assessment. In this respect, the Court also attaches weight to the fact that the Latvian parliament has periodically reviewed section 5(6) of the 1995 Act, most recently in 2004. Even more importantly, the Constitutional Court carefully examined, in its decision of 30 August 2000, the historical and political circumstances which gave rise to the enactment of the law in Latvia, finding the restriction to be neither arbitrary nor disproportionate at that point in time, that is, nine years after the events in question (see paragraphs 61-63 above).

135.  It is to be noted that the Constitutional Court observed in its decision of 30 August 2000 that the Latvian parliament should establish a time-limit on the restriction. In the light of this warning, even if today Latvia cannot be considered to have overstepped its wide margin of appreciation under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1, it is nevertheless the case that the Latvian parliament must keep the statutory restriction under constant review, with a view to bringing it to an early end. Such a conclusion seems all the more justified in view of the greater stability which Latvia now enjoys, inter alia, by reason of its full European integration (see paragraph 51 above). Hence, the failure by the Latvian legislature to take active steps in this connection may result in a different finding by the Court (see, mutatis mutandis, Sheffield and Horsham v. the United Kingdom, 30 July 1998, § 60, Reports 1998-V; see also the follow-up judgment to that case, Christine Goodwin v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 28957/95, §§ 71‑93, ECHR 2002-VI).

136.  The Court concludes that there has been no violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1.


The Court’s assessment

141.  The Court considers in the circumstances of the case that Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 is the lex specialis, and no separate examination of the applicant’s complaints is warranted under Article 11. Nor can the Court find any argument that would require a separate examination of the applicant’s complaints about her inability to stand for election from the point of view of Article 10.

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