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Hundreds queue to sign up for Russian as 2nd official language

November 30, 2011, 23:49 UTC+3

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

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RIGA, November 30 (Itar-Tass) —— Hundreds of people are standing in lines to take part in a nationwide campaign to collect signature organized by Latvia’s Central Election Commission to award the status of the second official language to Russian.

The collection of signatures ends on Wednesday, November 30, Yevgeny Osipov, one of the organizers of the action, said in an interview with Itar-Tass.

“As we expected, the last day was the peak of activity and I think we will collect the needed number of signatures,” he said.

Osipov said numerous infringements were registered at the polls and there was a sense of the local authorities’ opposition to the campaign.

He acknowledged that it will not be easy to implement this legislative initiative as it can hardly be expected that 770,000 citizens will vote in a referendum for Russian as the second official language in Latvia. “Still, we will get a very strong document, the juridical confirmation of the fact that a large number of Latvian citizens wish the Russian language to have some official status in Latvia and that this status should be constitutionally sealed. This will be the reason for pressing through European structures and instances, through Brussels for some status for the Russian language, for instance the status of the official language as all major Latvian cities have large compact Russian-speaking communities,” he 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). If the Saeima rejects the bill on the matter a nationwide referendum must be held.

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.

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