RIGA, August 22 (Itar-Tass) —— The movement “For Human Rights” has collected the required 10,000 notarially-verified signatures in support of granting Latvian citizenship to all local non-citizens, predominantly Russian speakers, the movement’s coordinator Andrei Tolmachev told reporters here on Wednesday.
According to the organizers’ plans, the first stage of the action, the collection of 10,000 notarially-verified signatures, was to have continued till August 29. Then the signatures will be referred to the Central Election Commission. According to Latvian law, the Central Election Commission must check the collected signature for authenticity and ascertain the absence of errors. Then the second stage of the campaign will be held - the collection of signatures of ten percent of citizens (some 153,000 people) in support of the initiative. If this number of signatures is collected, the Central Election Commission will be able to hold the referendum on amending the law On Citizenship. If the outcome of the nation-wide referendum is positive, Latvian citizenship must be granted to all non-citizens. The votes of half the number of participants in the latest parliamentary election (some 459,000 people) are needed for the referendum to be valid.
Latvia has a population of over 2 million, including some 320,000 predominantly Russian speakers having no Latvian citizenship. From the time of Latvia’s secession from the USSR in 1991 they were stripped of most political rights, including the right to vote in the municipal and parliamentary elections and in the election to the European Parliament. Aside from political rights non-citizens are deprived of a number of social and economic rights. There are altogether 79 distinctions in the rights of citizens and non-citizens, including 47 restrictions on professions. Latvian parliament more than once rejected attempts of the Russian speaking opposition to change this situation.