Usakovs pulls an about-face

  • 2011-11-09
  • Staff and wire reports

Nils Usakovs jumps aboard language referendum.

RIGA - Officially, the political party Harmony Center states that it does not support the signature drive for Russian as a second state language in Latvia. Nonetheless, and in a version of ‘doublespeak,’ the party’s leader, Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs, has gone ahead and signed the petition for the proposed amendments to the Constitution anyway, despite earlier statements that he, personally, does not support the movement. The politician explains his actions in a statement, claiming that his move is not directed against the Latvian language, but in the name of “dignity,” reports LETA.

In the statement, Usakovs explains that he was infuriated by the All for Latvia!-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (VL-TB/LNNK) Cabinet ministers, who voted against allocating funding for the referendum. “According to the law, if 10,000 signatures are collected, the state must fund the campaign, regardless of what the referendum’s initiators are fighting for. In a democratic country that respects all citizens, its ministers must support the funding. However, the current government is not doing so. VL-TB/LNNK ministers called the initiators’ goals immoral and voted against it. They do not have right to interpret the law as they please and separate the country’s citizens into right or wrong ones,” stated Usakovs.

His voting for the referendum, after stating opposition to it, is, however, a strange, and indirect way to protest VL-TB/LNNK’s actions.
“They indicate a lack of respect towards a considerable segment of the population. Harmony Center’s voters confirmed during the recent elections that they are extremely tolerant and open to compromise, supporting the idea that those legislative initiatives that affect historical and national issues will not be discussed during the next three years. The party’s voters were ready to agree to this for a greater good - we all want to live in a united society, where everyone respects each other, regardless of his/her nationality or native language, works for the state’s benefit, which is perceived by both - Latvians and Russian-speaking Latvians as their homeland,” added Usakovs.

Ethnic Latvian parties, though, did not agree with Harmony’s proposal to set aside discussion on historical issues, namely Soviet occupation, for three years. This was not the way, they felt, to improve ethnic relations in a democratic society - by hiding from the real issues that still divide the country.
The official signature campaign that could lead to Russian becoming an official language in Latvia got underway Nov. 1, reported Latvians Online. It will be a month-long campaign seeking support for amending the Latvian Constitution, which would allow Russian to have equal status with the Latvian language. It would also, therefore, make Russian an official language of the EU.

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.
If at least 10 percent of the eligible voters in the last parliamentary election - a total of 154,379 persons - sign by Nov. 30, then the constitutional amendments will be presented to the Saeima for approval. 

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