RIGA, November 15 (Itar-Tass) —— Some 39,258 citizens of Latvia took part in the nationwide collection of signatures in support of the second official language status of Russian in Latvia, the Central Elections Commission reported on Tuesday.
Mayors and municipal council deputies of the Concord Center, which represents Russian Latvians, signed up, the Commission said. “Municipal council deputies followed the example of Riga Duma Speaker Nils Ushakovs. They agreed that it was not about changing the status of the Latvian language, but people simply wished to draw attention to nationality issues,” it noted.
The nationalist alliance All For Latvia- For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK demanded the resignation of the Riga mayor on Monday after he had signed up the petition in support of the Russian language. A similar demand was made by the opposition bloc Unity in the Riga Duma. The bloc appealed to Minister for Environmental Protection and Regional Development Edmunds Sprudzs for evaluating the compliance of Ushakovs with the mayoral position requirements. The minister said that the participation of the mayor in the sign-up campaign could not be a cause of his resignation.
The campaign aimed to make Russian the second official language in Latvia was started on March 7. The signatures are attested by a notary. The Russian Language public organization initiated the collection of signatures.
In compliance with the Latvian laws, the Central Elections Commission verified the authenticity of the signatures and announced the collection of signatures of at least a tenth of the Latvian population (154,379) on November 1-30 for submitting the draft constitutional amendments to the parliament. Adult citizens of Latvia are eligible for signing up. In all, there are 612 stations collecting signatures in Latvia and another 39 operate abroad. The stations operate for four hours per day.
If the parliament rejects the bill, a nationwide referendum will be held. About 770,000 citizens must support the initiative in the referendum to make the amendment valid.
The campaign was held in response to the action of All For Latvia- For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK, which collected signatures in support to Latvian-language studies at all schools funded by the state. The referendum failed.