A signature campaign is set to begin May 11 that could lead to a constitutional amendment making Latvian the only language to be used in government-sponsored schools in the country, the Central Election Commission has announced in Rīga.
The campaign follows confirmation April 11 by the election commission that a petition drive organized by the conservative National Alliance had garnered at least 10,000 signatures, setting into motion the process that could result in the constitutional amendment.
If approved, the constitutional amendment would require that beginning with the 2012 school year, instruction from the first grade up in state- and municipal-sponsored schools could only occur in the state language. Under the constitution, the state language is Latvian.
The National Alliance (Nacionālā apvienība “Visu Latvijai!” – “Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK”) started the petition drive last year, gathering 10,140 signatures.
Now at least 10 percent of the number of voters in the last parliamentary election, a total 153,232 persons, have to sign a new petition organized by the election commission. If that number is reached by June 9, the proposed amendment will have to be considered by the Saeima.
If the Saeima rejects or amends a citizen-backed amendment, then a national referendum would be organized.
It will be up to local governments to determine where the signature drive will take place. Under the law, local governments must guarantee that at least one location is designated for each 10,000 persons in their jurisdiction.
For Latvian citizens abroad, it is expected that locations will be announced to include embassies and consulates, election commission spokeswoman Kristīne Bērziņa told Latvians Online in an email. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will determine where those locations will be.
While the National Alliance’s effort has moved ahead, another petition drive run by the “Dzimtā valoda” organization seeks to recognize Russian as a second state language. The organization was formed by Vladimirs Lindermans, head of the Jan. 13 Movement (13. janvāra kustība), and Osipov Party leader Jevgēņijs Osipovs, according to media reports.
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