Jānis Pleps


The first President of Latvia was Jānis Čakste, elected November 14th, 1922 by the Parliament (Saeima). The author of the article shows that Jānis Čakste hadn’t had real alternatives for this election. The majority of the Parliament (Saeima) and also the majority of the political elite supported Jānis Čakste for the post of President.

Jānis Čakste was recognized as an authoritative statesman from the first days of the new Latvian state and also – as a strong democrat and supporter of the parliamentary democracy prescribed in the Constitution of Latvia February 15th, 1922. Kārlis Ulmanis, former first prime minister, and Rainis (Jānis Pliekšāns), famous Latvian poet, had political ambitions in the run for Presidency, but neither had the necessary votes in the Parliament (Saeima).

The majority in the Latvian Constitutional Assembly decided in favor of Jānis Čakste for the first President when they adopted the concept of parliamentary elected President in the Constitution. Both potential alternatives – Kārlis Ulmanis and Rainis – didn’t have any chance to get necessary majority in the Parliament (Saeima). Decision against the people elected President was a decision for strong parliamentary system and the first President who could establish strong democratic traditions in the execution of the office. Jānis Čakste was recognized as such a statesman by the political elite of the new state.

Jānis Čakste potential leadership in the run for the Presidency was fixed by the decision of the majority of the Latvian Constitutional Assembly in Article 8 of the Law on the procedure which entered into force. This Article prescribed that Jānis Čakste as a President of the Latvian Constitutional Assembly executed duties of the President until the Parliament (Saeima) elected President for the first time.

Until the post of the President was created in the Constitution of Latvia on February 15th, 1922 , Jānis Čakste  therefore had acted as a head of state since the proclamation of the Republic of Latvia on November 18th, 1918. He was elected twice as a speaker of the provisional Parliaments. In November 17th, 1918 Latvian Peoples Council elected him Chairman of the Council, and on May 1st, 1920 Latvian Constitutional Assembly elected him President of this Assembly. In both positions Jānis Čakste was the highest ranking state official and executed functions typical of the head of state.