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Latvia Constit Court may cancel referendum on Russian language

January 11, 2012, 21:46 UTC+3
The action “For the Native Language” aimed to award to the Russian language the status of the second official language in Latvia started on March 7
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RIGA, January 11 (Itar-Tass) —— Latvia’s Constitutional Court may cancel a nation-wide referendum on awarding the status of the second official language to the Russian language in Latvia due on February 18, Gunars Kutris, the head of the Constitutional Court, said in an interview with Latvian radio on Wednesday.

He said this depends on how the application to the Constitutional Court is formulated and whether it meets the requirements of the court. Even though the court, upon receiving the application, must make the decision within four weeks, there can be exceptions when the court can make the decision earlier. “This is possible in theory. If the application is made in accordance with the Constitution we will rule to begin the proceedings,” he said.

The head of the Constitutional Court is of the opinion that the Central Election Commission should have first considered “if it is worthwhile to spend money on the case that can prove unconstitutional.” “Just imagine a most absurd situation when an absolutely silly question is raised. Everybody says there is no sense [in holding a referendum], as not all will vote, but the state ignores this and is ready to spend 2 million Lat (about 2 million dollars) for the reason that a referendum is the ultimate manifestation of democracy. Can a state act in such an unstatemanly way and spend funds on what will not bring any result? The aim does exist, but are the means used to achieve this aim adequate,” Kutris asked.

The action “For the Native Language” aimed to award to the Russian language the status of the second official language in Latvia started on March 7. It was necessary to collect the signatures of one-tenths of the voters in Latvia (154,379 people). As many as 187,378 people, or over 12 percent of the total number of residents having the right to vote, signed up in support of Russian as the second official language in Latvia.

Latvia’s Saeima (parliament) had earlier refused by a majority vote to award the status of the second official language to the Russian language. Regardless of this decision the matter must be put to referendum due on February 18, as the project envisages amendments to the Constitution. It takes the votes of at least half of the voters, that is over 770,000 citizens, for Russian to become the second official language in Latvia.

The nationalist association “All for Latvia – Fatherland and Freedom / Movement for National Independence of Latvia” now drafts an application to the Constitutional Court to acknowledge that the referendum on granting to the Russian language the status of the second official language is unconstitutional. If the court makes the decision in favor of the nationalist bloc, the Central Election Commission, as a state structure, will have to adhere to the court ruling,” Arvis Tsimdars, the head of the Central Election Commission, said the other day.

 

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