Progressives and Greens/Farmers to take part in EP election debates in Russian

  • 2024-05-16
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The Progressives party is planning to take part in televised Russian-language debates ahead of the upcoming European Parliament (EP) elections, the party's co-chair Justine Pantelejeva, who is also running in the elections, told LETA.

The Progressives believe that in the current situation, it is essential to disprove "biased, false information", which is also important in the Russian-language debates, as they will involve political parties intent on distancing Latvia from Europe and bringing it closer to Russia, Pantelejeva said.

"If during the live broadcast statements are made that threaten our security, question Ukraine's rights, we would like to refute them immediately," Pantelejeva stressed.

In Pantelejeva's words, the Progressives do not want people that are working in other countries' interests to get elected to the EP, which is why it is important to debate and defend various political offers.

"If other parties are unwilling to debate and reduce the possibility of tensions, we cannot see this as a responsible [position], because it goes against our common goal of having all nine MEPs united," Pantelejeva said.

The Progressives believe that decisions on the Russian-language debate should be left to the media, rather than be influenced by politicians.

The public service broadcaster's decision to organize election debates in Russia is controversial, but if such debates take place, the Union of Greens and Farmers will take part in them, Harijs Rokpelnis, Greens/Farmers' lead candidate in the EP elections, told LETA. 

Rokpelnis said that if he were the organizer, he would probably not organize a debate in Russian. Latvia has one official language, participants of elections are all citizens of Latvia, and it is high time to take steps to ensure the use of one language in Latvia, the politician said.

However, there is also a logic to holding the debates in Russian, as it is not always so easy to switch to the official language in politics. Therefore, if there are other parties that are actively campaigning in the public space in Russian, Greens/Farmers are willing to take the opportunity to participate in the debate to inform about the party's political position in favor of the Western course, Rokpelnis said.

As reported, the New Unity and the National Alliance have decided not to participate in the pre-election debates in Russian, LETA was informed.

Given the public discussion about organizing pre-election debates in Russian, the New Unity believes that, especially since Russia's invasion in Ukraine, it is necessary to communicate with the Latvian media in Latvian. The party believes that during the European Parliament (EP) pre-election period, discussions in the media should be in the national language only, therefore the New Unity will not participate in pre-election debates and broadcasts that will be held in Russian.

The New Unity stresses that only citizens of the European Union (EU) Member States can stand and vote in the EP elections, while citizenship of any country requires knowledge of the national language, which ensures the ability to integrate into society and the common information space.

"Pre-election debates in Russian give this foreign language, which is not an official language of any EU country, a special status and importance, which contradicts the guidelines of the national language policy," the party pointed out, reminding that the amendments to the Law on Pre-election Campaigning adopted by the Saeima last year strengthen the role of the national language by banning campaigning in Russian and are aimed at the full involvement of EU citizens living in Latvia in the electoral process.

As debate broadcasts are a specific format for the pre-election campaign period, and given the geopolitical situation, the New Unity has decided not to participate in the pre-election debates in Russian.

The United List said that they will participate in debates held only in the official language, said the party's leader for the EP elections, Reinis Poznaks. "It seems self-understanding during the third year of the war," he said.

Meanwhile, the National Alliance does not support and considers unacceptable the idea of holding the EP pre-election debates in Russian and will not participate in them, and calls on other political parties to take a clear position on this issue. The National Alliance will defend the status of the official language in all possible ways, including by submitting amendments to the law, the party said.

The National Alliance has previously stated that the pre-election debates should not be held in Russian. The National Alliance pointed out that the opinion that pre-election debates in the public media should not be in Russian has also been publicly expressed by a number of experts, including the former president and legal expert Egils Levits. He has pointed out that pre-election debates in Russian contravene the Constitution, which establishes the status of Latvian as the state language.

One of the leaders on the ticket of the New Conservative Party (JKP) for the EP elections, Liana Langa, said on social networks that JKP will not participate in the debate held in the Russian language, either. "We agree with Constitutional rights experts that holding such debates is illegitimate," said Langa.

As reported, a controversy has erupted in the public sphere over whether it is acceptable to organize debates on the EP in Russian in the public media. This week, the State Language Centre issued a statement that it does not support the idea of the Latvian public television (LTV) to hold the EP pre-election debate in Russian, as it considers that such an idea contradicts the status of the official language in the Constitution and its role in the integration of society.

LTV reacted to this by appealing to the Justice Ministry to clarify its public accusations about LTV's intention to organize the EP pre-election debates also in Russian, as it considers this an attempt to influence the editorial decisions of the public service media.

According to LTV, the State Language Center does not understand how pre-election campaigning, as defined by the law, differs from pre-election broadcasts. The media representatives explained that the pre-election debates are not pre-election campaigning, but content about the EP elections.

Public Electronic Mass Media Council (SEPLP), for its part, pointed out that LTV's choice to broadcast the pre-election debates in Russian does not violate laws, regulations, public service guidelines and the annual plan.

At the same time, SEPLP calls on LTV to carefully assess the broader context, internal and external factors in order to respect and reconcile in its activities the essence of the Constitution, the SEPLP law and the provision of a full and quality democratic participation process for all those involved in the EP elections - candidates and voters.