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Latvia collects over 8 thousand signatures for referendum on non-citizens

August 21, 2012, 14:18 UTC+3
The collection of signatures became possible due to voluntarily charity payments of the action supporters
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RIGA, August 21 (Itar-Tass) — Latvia’s residents participate actively in support of granting citizenship to all local, mostly Russian-speaking, non-citizens.

The movement For Equal Right has collected 8,600 signatures of 10,000 necessary ones for organisation of a referendum on the issue, the movement’s activists said on Tuesday.

“Every week, the dynamics of collecting the signatures is growing. Three weeks earlier over five business days, 100 people gave their signatures, two weeks earlier – 200 people, and a week earlier – 600 people, and between the 13th and the 17th of August we collected 1,600 signatures,” human rights activists say. “If the tendency remains, by Saturday, August 25 we shall manage to collect ten thousand signatures, which are required for organisation of a referendum.”

The collection of signatures became possible due to voluntarily charity payments of the action supporters, who donated over 2,500 lats /about 5,000 dollars/ for fees of notaries, the initiative’s organisers say.

The organisers plan to present the 10,000 signatures to the Central Elections Commission, which would organise the second stage of the campaign – will collect signatures from ten percent of citizens /about 153,000 people/ in support of the initiative. If the signatures are collected, the Central Elections Commission will have to organise a referendum on changes to the law on citizenship and all non-citizens will receive citizenship. The necessary level of respondents for a referendum is 50 percent of electors who participated in past parliamentary elections /about 459,000 people/.

Latvia’s population is over two million people, where about 320,000 are Russian-speaking people without citizenship. From the moment Latvia separated from the USSR in 1991, they have been deprived of most political rights, including participation in municipal or parliamentary elections, and in elections to the European Parliament. Besides the political rights, the non-citizens do not enjoy some social and economic rights. There are 79 differences in rights between citizens and non-citizens, including 47 limitations for jobs. Latvia’s parliament rejected several times attempts of the Russian-speaking opposition to change the situation.

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