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RIGA, September 4 (Itar-Tass) — The movement For Equal Rights on Tuesday referred to the Latvian Central Election Commission over 12,000 notarized signatures for a national referendum on granting Latvian citizenship to all local non-citizens, mainly Russian speaking.
This is more than 10,000 signatures necessary for the referendum. The head of the Central Election Commission, Arnis Cimdars, said work to check the signatures could take a week. “After the CEC checks and states how many signatures were collected at the first stage, the decision will be made when the second state of the collection of signatures will be organized. This stage may be organized already this year,” he told Tass.
According to Latvian law, the Central Elections Commission must check the collected signature for authenticity and ascertain the absence of errors and then hold the second stage of the campaign - the collection of signatures of ten percent of citizens (some 153,000 people) in support of the referendum. If this number of signatures is collected, the Central Elections Commission should organize the third stage of the campaign: to hold the referendum on amending the law On Citizenship.
Andrei Tolmachev, coordinator of the human rights movement For Equal Rights, expressed hope that the referendum on granting citizenship to all non-citizens will be held in Latvia. “We expect to win,” he stressed.
Vice-speaker of the Latvian parliament Andrei Klementiev, for his part, expressed an opinion that the issue of non-citizens must be solved at the parliamentary level. Nevertheless, any nation-wide referendum sobers the authorities, he said. “This is an abnormal situation when one quarter of the population on the territory of the European Union has no right to participate in political life of the country and even in elections to bodies of local self-government,” he stressed.
“This is an abnormal practice for the European Union. There is a decision, a resolution of the OSCE, which urges Estonia and Latvia to stop the practice of barring non-citizens from voting in the elections,” he added.
“This is why discussing that issue once again, holding a referendum – will attract attrition, first of all of EU specialists, specialists on democracy, on protection of rights, political rights to the problem in Latvia,” the politician said.
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.