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RIGA, February 19 (Itar-Tass) — A total of 24.88 percent (273,347) citizens voted for granting Russian the status of the second state language at the nation-wide referendum.
According to data from all polling stations, processed by the Central Election Commission (CEC), most voters – 74.8 percent (821,722) – turned down appropriate amendments to the country’s constitution. Another 0.32 percent (3,524) ballots were recognized as invalid.
Latvia held a referendum on Saturday on granting Russian the status of the second state language; the turnout was 70.73 percent (1,092,908) of the electorate. As many as 950 polling stations were opened in the Baltic republic and another 85 – abroad.
Voters were suggested to reply to the following question: “Do you want to adopt the bill ‘Amendments to the Constitution of the Latvian Republic’, providing for establishing the status of the second state language for Russian?” Ballot papers contained two versions – “Yes” or “No”.
The Native Language Society sponsored the referendum in response to actions by Latvian radicals who started collecting signatures on transition of all Russian schools (funded by the state) to Latvian language teaching.
Over two million people live in Latvia. Out of the total, Russian-language people make up 40 percent. Incidentally, authorities barred from the referendum 320,000 people who are “non-citizens”, since they were deprived of citizenship and the right to vote after Latvia’s cession from the Soviet Union.