RIGA , February 19 (Itar-Tass) —— Latvia’s 69.23 percent of citizens – 1,069,759 – participated in the referendum on the status of the Russian language on Saturday, the Central Elections Commission reported on Sunday.
The voting was over at midnight Moscow time. Early results will be available at about 01:30 Moscow time, and preliminary processing of results at all election stations are expected by morning.
The Central Elections Commission reports that the voting has not involved any major accidents. At some voting stations there were lines of people.
As many as 950 polling stations operated in the republic and another 85 were organised abroad. Referendum participants were 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 contained two versions to choose from: “Yes” or “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, the 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 who have no voting right.