An official signature campaign that could lead to Russian becoming an official language in Latvia gets underway Nov. 1, the Central Election Commission in Rīga has announced.
The month-long campaign seeks support for amending the Latvian constitution to allow Russian to have equal status with the Latvian language.
Under current wording, Latvian is the only official language in the country. However, some members of the country’s Russian-speaking community have been pushing to give their native language official status as well.
On Sept. 9, the Central Election Commision received a petition with 12,533 signatures, marking the first step in an initiative to change the constitution. The petition was submitted by the Russian-oriented “Dzimtā valoda” (Native Language) group.
If at least 10 percent of the eligible voters in the last parliamntary election—a total of 154,379 persons—sign on by Nov. 30, then the constitutional amendments will be presented to the Saeima for approval. If the Saeima approves the amendments, then Russian would become the second official language. If MPs amend or reject the constitutional changes, then the legislation would be presented to voters in a national referendum.
The signatures gathered on the “Dzimtā valoda” petition will count toward the total needed.
The proposed constitutional amendments would change:
- Paragraph 4, which states that Latvian is the state language.
- Paragraph 18, which stipulates the oath made by members of parliament. Under current language, they promise to strengthen Latvian as the only state language.
- Paragraph 21, which makes Latvian the language of the Saeima.
- Paragraph 101, which makes Latvian the official language of local governments.
- Paragraph 104, which guarantees people the right to address government bodies and to receive an answer in Latvian.
Outside of Latvia, citizens who wish to sign on to the campaign may do so at one of 39 designated embassies or consulates. A list of the sites is available from the Central Election Commission’s website, www.cvk.lv.
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