Latvia calls Russian language referendum for Feb 18

3rd January 2012, Comments 0 comments

Latvia on Tuesday said that a referendum on the introduction of Russian as the Baltic state's second official language after Latvian will take place on February 18.

Representatives of Latvia's Central Electoral Commission (CVK) confirmed the date to media following a meeting in Riga.

The referendum, however, is seen as having little chance of succeeding.

While Russian-speakers account for around a third of Latvia's 2.2-million population, the referendum will need to attract more than half of the electorate, or the equivalent of 771,350 votes, making it unlikely the measure would take effect.

A popular vote on the language issue became inevitable after lawmakers on December 19 rejected a petition by members of Latvia's Russian-speaking minority to elevate the status of the Russian language.

Their signature collecting drive in November gained the support of more than 10 percent of the electorate, forcing legislators to consider the motion.

Latvia regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 following half a century of occupation, joining the European Union and NATO in 2004.

The ballot will be the second referendum in as many years after voters overwhelmingly backed the dissolution of parliament in a 2011 plebiscite called by then-president Valdis Zatlers.

© 2012 AFP

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