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RIGA, November 7 (Itar-Tass) —— The first Russian mayor of the Latvian capital, Nil Ushakov, took part in the nationwide collection of signatures for awarding the status of the second official language in Latvia to the Russian language. The collection of signatures is officially made by the Central Electoral Commission of Latvia from November 1 to 30. The mayor announced his participation in the action in his press release on Tuesday.
He said the collection of signatures is loosely connected with the status of the Russian language in Latvia. It is much more a matter of respect people want to have.
“People who now come to give a signature for a referendum show to the current ruling politicians that they are annoyed with their attitudes and want to keep their dignity. It must be realized that no one of those who sign for a referendum have anything against Latvians or the Latvian language. People are against the politicians who don’t care a straw for the interests of the country and its citizens, Latvians included. This is why I gave my signature for a referendum,” the mayor said.
“I personally and my party declare that there is only one official language in Latvia, the Latvian language. As a pragmatic politician I realize that a referendum can hardly be crowned with success. But I must be together with hundreds of thousands of Latvian citizens who wish to keep their dignity,” the mayor said.
The action For the Native Language, to grant the status of the second official language to the Russian language, began in Latvia on March 7. The collection of notarized signatures was started for the purpose. The Native Language public organization initiated the action.
According to Latvian legislation the Central Electoral Commission checked the signatures collected for authenticity and absence of errors and announced the official collection of signatures of one-tenth of Latvian voters (154,379 people) from November 1 to 30 in order to refer amendments to the country’s Constitution to the Saeima (parliament). Adult Latvian citizens can give their signatures. If the Saeima rejects the bill on the matter a nationwide referendum must be held.
The signatures of some 770,000 citizens are needed to make the Russian language the second official language in Latvia. Altogether 612 posts for signatures’ collection are opened on the Latvian territory and another 39 abroad. They are open four hours a day.
This action was launched in counteraction to the collection of notarized signatures by the nationalist association “All for Latvia - Fatherland and Freedom / Movement for National Independence of Latvia” that called for switching all state-financed Russian schools in Latvia to tuition in the Latvian language. That action flopped.