Referendum drive nears 75 percent mark

With just a week to go before the deadline, more than 74 percent of the required signatures have been gathered to call a national referendum on controversial amendments to two security laws, according to the Central Election Commission in Rīga.

A total of 110,676 signatures have been gathered as of April 25, the commission announced. A minimum of 149,064—10 percent of the total number of voters in the last parliamentary election—are need to call the referendum. The signature drive began April 3 and ends May 2.

More than 600 stations around Latvia are open to collect signatures, as are 32 Latvian embassies and consulates abroad.

A pair of petitions are available at those stations, one asking for a referendum on amendments to the National Security Law, the other for a referendum on changes to the State Law on Security Institutions. Although the amendments were rescinded by the parliament on March 29, Latvian lawmakers did so only after mounting political pressure and only after the process to call the referendum had begun.

The amendments first were pushed through by the Cabinet of Ministers issuing an emergency decree in January while the parliament, or Saeima, was in recess. The Saeima then approved the amendments, but its action was vetoed by President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga. The Saeima overrode the veto, so the president on March 10 froze implementation of the amendments, putting into motion the call for a national referendum.

Opponents of the coalition government led by Prime Minister Aigars Kalvītis have been promoting the signature drive, while observers have noted that a referendum could be seen as a vote of confidence in the government and the Saeima.

Information on places where the petitions may be signed is available from the Central Election Commission’s Web site,

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

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