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RIGA, February 18 (Itar-Tass) — According to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), during the first hour of the voting at a nation-wide referendum on granting Russian the status of the second state language, which began at 08.00 local time (10.00 Moscow time), 1.63 percent of citizens - - 25,191 people took part in it.
As the CEC reports, the voting is being held in a calm atmosphere and without any incidents. Those who wished to take part in the referendum came to some polling stations in the territory of Latvia before their opening. According to police information, no violations were registered during the voting so far.
As many as 950 polling stations will operate in the republic and another 85 abroad.
Referendum participants are to reply to the following question: “Are you for adopting the bill ‘Amendments to the Constitution of the Latvian Republic’, providing for establishing the status for the Russian language of the second state tongue?” The ballot paper contains two versions “Yes” and “No”.
The Native Tongue society initiated the referendum. It was a reply to Latvian radicals that started a collection of signatures for transferring all state-funded Russian school to teaching in the Latvian language. However, this move flopped.
The Latvian parliament refused to grant Russian the status of the second state tongue by a majority vote last December. This notwithstanding, this question was put to the referendum. At least, half of voters, that is over 770,000 citizens, are to give the positive reply.
Over two million people live in Latvia; out of the total, Russian-language residents make up 40 percent. Incidentally, 320,000 people will not be able to participate in the referendum. These are Russian-language “non-citizens” who were deprived of citizenship after Latvia’s secession from the Soviet Union and have no voting right.