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Latvian president opposes referendum on state status of Russian language

December 13, 2011, 17:24 UTC+3
The president said earlier he was ready to resign in the case the Russian language became the second official language in the country
1 pages in this article
Photo ITAR-TASS

Photo ITAR-TASS

RIGA, December 13 (Itar-Tass) —— Latvian President Andris Berzins will take no part in the national referendum on the second state language status of the Russian language in Latvia.

The appeal of the ruling coalition on Latvian citizens to take part in the referendum for staying ‘no’ would not help consolidate the society, the president told the Latvian television on Tuesday. “I cannot understand certain politicians and deputies. Do they really think they can unite the society by doing that?” the president wondered. “I think it would be much more efficient for every person supporting the Latvian language to try to convince at least one opponent in a normal conversation.”

The consolidation of the Latvian society is a key task, and the referendum does not contribute to it, Berzins said. He also thinks that citizens do not quite understand the significance of their participation in the referendum. “They think they protect the Latvian language when they say ‘no’, but that is a mere demonstration of their attitude. It is important how many people say ‘yes’,” he said.

The president said earlier he was ready to resign in the case the Russian language became the second official language in the country.

Last week the Latvian ruling coalition of centrist Zatlers Reform Party, the center-right Unity bloc and the right-wing National Alliance opposed the second official language status of Russian in Latvia and urged citizens to vote down the option in a referendum.

Latvian as the only state language in the country is the foundation of Latvia’s independence, the coalition said. Together with other fundamental provisions of the constitution, which proclaim Latvia as an independent and democratic state with indivisible territory ruled by the people, Latvian as the only state language presents the essence of the Latvian state, the coalition said.

“Signatures have been collected by the appeal of politicians opposed to the constitutional fundamentals of the Latvian state to hold a referendum aimed to make Russian the second state language in Latvia. The goal of these politicians is to divide the Latvian society with this referendum,” the coalition said in a statement posted in the local media.

The coalition asked citizens to take part in the upcoming referendum and say a firm ‘no’ to the Russian language. “By voting against this option, we will confirm the national and democratic identity of this state and the Latvian language as the common foundation for all citizens of Latvia and the united society,” the coalition said.

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. According to the tentative report of the Central Elections Commission, over 183,000 people signed up in support of the new status of the Russian language.

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 were eligible for signing up. In all, there were 612 stations collecting signatures in Latvia and another 39 operated abroad. The stations operated for four hours per day.

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.

 

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