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RIGA, December 1 (Itar-Tass) —— More than 180,000 Latvian citizens took part in the nationwide campaign from November 1 through 30 to collect signatures to award the status of the second official language in the republic to the Russian language, chairman of the Latvian Central Election Commission Arnis Cimdars told the local Baltcom radio station on Thursday.
“The Central Election Commission has been receiving data starting from Wednesday evening. Information from local self-government is coming not by fax but is entered in the centralized system. Each paper is reported individually, so the process is rather long. So far, no big errors have been reported. We will have verified data by Thursday evening. According to latest data, the number of lines with signatures is 180,000,” he said.
In his words, the final results will be announced in three to four week, since it till take time to verify the signatures.
On March 7, an action called For the Native Language was launched in Latvia to make Russian the second official language. To this end the collection of notarized signatures has been launched on the initiative of the Native Language public organization. The organization was founded by the chairman of the Movement of January 13, Vladimir Linderman, and the leader of the Osipov Party, Yevgeny Osipov, jointly with the youth movement United Latvia. They have collected 12,533 notarized signatures and submitted them to the Central Election Commission.
In line with the Latvian laws, the Central Election Commission verified the authenticity of the signatures. This done, the Central Election Commission announced an official collection of signatures from a tenth of Latvia’s eligible voters (154,379 people) to submit relevant amendments to the country’s constitution to the national parliament. Latvian citizens of the full legal age were allowed to put their signatures. In case the parliament votes down a relevant bill, a nationwide referendum is to be held. About 770,000 Latvians must vote for the initiative in the referendum in order to make Russian the second official language.
The action came as a response to the action staged by the nationalist association All for Latvia! – For the Fatherland and Freedom/Movement for Latvia’s National Sovereignty. They collected notarized signatures to oblige all state-financed Russian schools use Latvian as the language of studies. The action however failed.
According to the 2000 census, 37.5 percent of Latvia’s citizens called Russia as their native language, while the number of ethnic Russians was 29.6 percent of the population.