As various groups in Latvia and abroad continue to agitate for citizens to sign petitions for two national referendums, the number of signatures has surpassed more than a third of those required to be gathered by the May 2 deadline.
However, activity has been low to nonexistent in the 32 embassies and consulates where Latvian citizens living abroad can sign in favor of the referendums to overturn controversial changes to two national security laws.
More than 60,000 signatures had been gathered in Latvia by April 18, according to data gathered by the Central Election Commission in Rīga. The total number of signatures asking for a referendum on changes to the National Security Law was 60,688. Signatures in favor of a referendum on amendments to the State Law on Security Institutions totaled 60,683.
In embassies and consultates outside Latvia, only 223 signatures had been collected for each referendum, the Central Election Commission reported. The greatest amount of activity was listed at the embassy in Ottawa, Canada, where 58 signatures had been gathered for each referendum; the embassy in Washington, D.C., with 38, and the embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, with 21.
The remaining 106 signatures were reported at embassies or consulates in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
No signatures were reported in embassies or consulates in Austria, Azerbaidjan, Belarus, Finland, Italy, Portugal or Turkey.
At least 149,064 individuals—10 percent of the number of people who voted in the last parliamentary election—must sign the petition in order to call a referendum.
The American Latvian Association, the European Latvian Association and the World Federation of Free Latvians are among diaspora groups that have called on citizens to sign the petitions. If a referendum is called, some observers have said, it may be seen as vote of confidence in the government coalition led by Prime Minister Aigars Kalvītis and in the parliament, or Saeima.
The Kalvītis government pushed through the amendments in January by emergency decree, a decision that received the support of the Saeima. President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga vetoed the amendments, but the Saeima overturned her veto. The signature drive was put into effect March 10 when the president exercised a rarely used constitutional power and temporarily froze implementation of the amendments.
Even though the signature drive continues, the amendments themselves were rescinded by the Saeima on March 29.
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