No referendum on school language as signature drive falls short — officials

A provisional count of a signature drive shows that no referendum will occur on making Latvian the official language of instruction in state-sponsored schools, say officials of the Central Election Commission in Rīga.

The effort to force a referendum on amending Latvia’s constitution appears to have fallen about 30,000 signatures short of the required 153,232, which represents 10 percent of the number of voters in the last Saeima election.

The signature drive organized from May 11 to June 9 garnered 112,608 signatures, according the election commission spokeswoman Kristīne Bērziņa.

With 29 of 45 locations abroad reporting, another 907 signatures can be added to the count, she said in a June 10 press release.

In addition, the final count is to include 10,140 signatures tallied on the petition that initiated the call for a referendum. The National Alliance (Nacionālā apvienība “Visu Latvijai!” – “Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK”) began collecting signatures last year in an effort to convince lawmakers that Latvian should be the only language of instruction in public schools. The election commission on April 11 ordered the signature campaign after receiving the petition.

If enough signatures had been gathered, then a national referendum would have been held that would have asked voters whether they support proposed changes to the constitution. If the referendum had succeeded, then the Saeima would have been asked to consider a bill to change Section 112 of the constitution.

Section 112 guarantees that all people in Latvia get an education at the primary and secondary levels. The amendment would have stipulated that the guarantee extends to education in the state language, which is Latvian.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

4 thoughts on “No referendum on school language as signature drive falls short — officials

  1. Can anyone tell me in which country children may be taught in state schools in another language than the official country’s language ?

  2. If 40% of a country speak a different language then by default any reasonable person would agree there are two ‘state’ languages in that country (whether official or not) – like for example Belgium. Can you imagine if French was not allowed as a school language for the 40% French speaking population? Dutch imposed on all Walloons? Impossible! And remember Russian was an official language in what is now Latvia before Latvian, or before the concept of ‘Latvia’ as a nation even existed! Ok so the Germans and Jews were wiped out, if they weren’t would German be an offical language in Latvia? The German language long long preceded Latvian around Riga, Latvian came much later to displace the native Livs language. Who are the natives in Latvia? Who has the greater right to dictate which are the state languages? Surely it is the current population – their rights have to be respected, whether Latvian speaking or Russian speaking. You can’t ignore 40% of a country! And Livs as the native language. History has left German by the wayside. I won’t even mention Latgallian and other dialects…

  3. Forgot to mention as an example Spain which has Spanish as the official national language, but Catalan and Basque etc are taught in state schools in the respective regions. Makes sense in multi-lingual countries.

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