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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 Rights has collected 9,100 notarized signatures of 10,000 necessary for a referendum on the issue, the movement’s activists said on Wednesday.
“We already have 9,100 signatures. A total of 505 people signed yesterday. Our main problem at the moment is finance. On Tuesday we received 471 lats (about 940 dollars) of donations, but our daily expenses are more than 1,000 lats (2,000 dollars). That is why we are terribly short of money at the moment,” movement coordinator Andrei Tolmachev said.
“We already fail to pay for the services of notary officers for all collected signatures. I appeal to all our supporters! You have already made one step, now take a second one – help us to raise money to pay for notary services,” he stressed.
The organizers plan to present the 10,000 signatures to the Central Elections Commission, which would organize the second stage of the campaign – collecting 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 organize a referendum on changes to the law on citizenship and all non-citizens must receive citizenship in case of its success. The necessary quorum for the 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 are deprived of 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.