Latvian Nationalists try to block referendum

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Latvian Nationalists try to block referendum

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The February referendum on making Russian a second official language looms, and in Latvia the issue is coming to a head.

Parliament saw a sign-in protest from the National Alliance. Its members moved around getting signatures for a petition against the referendum. Roughly one-third of Latvia’s 2.2 million people are Russian-speakers, and language is one of several sore points in relations between them and the Latvians.

“To put it simply we think the Latvian Constitution and Latvian independence are based on fundamental principles. One of which is Latvian as the only official language. In our opinion it would be equally unconstitutional to, say, collect signatures for ending Latvian independence,” said National Alliance leader Raivis Dzintars.

After nearly two decades of living down the sins of Soviets past Latvia’s Russian-speakers are starting to assert themsleves more. Their Harmony Centre Bloc won September elections, but was kept out of power.

The referendum stands no chance of gaining enough signatures and faces more legal obstacles should a miracle occur. It is more a way for the Russian Nationalists to make a point, and stay in the news.