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RIGA, November 22 (Itar-Tass) — As many as 78,279 Latvian citizens took part in the national collection of signatures for awarding to the Russian language the status of the second official language in Latvia, the press service of the Central Electoral Commission announced on Tuesday.
Meanwhile ranking Latvian officials are for the Latvian language being the only official language in the country. “It is not the matter of the Russian language alone. One can get education in the languages of seven ethnic minorities in Latvia. It is of great importance that we enable people who live here to preserve their national values. On the whole, it is the Latvian language that unites us all,” Solvita Aboltina, the speaker of the Saeima (parliament) said on Tuesday in an interview with the local LNT TV channel. She said the official Latvian language should not be jeopardized. “The outcome of a referendum in which people would vote for the Russian language as the second official language is much rather an impossibility,” she forecasts.
The nationalist association “All for Latvia – Fatherland and Freedom / Movement for National Independence of Latvia” had earlier demanded dismissal of Riga Mayor Nil Ushakov for the reason that he took part in the nationwide collection of signatures in support of the Russian language. Deputies of the Unity opposition bloc in the Riga Duma made a similar demand, asking Latvian Minister of Regional Development Edmund Sprudzhs to decide if Ushakov is fit for his post. The minister, however, said that the mayor’s participation in the collection of signatures in support of the Russian language as the second official language in Latvia is no reason to dismiss him.
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.