On Thursday, the 2nd of March, Latvia’s Saeima conceptually supported amendments submitted by the National Alliance, Combined List, New Unity and Union of Greens and Farmers to the Pre-election Campaign Law. These amendments provide for all pre-election campaigning in the country to be carried out in the state language only.
Amendments were suggested by Saeima deputies Rihards Kols, Edgars Tavars, Jānis Dombrava, Ainars Latkovskis, Edvīns Šnore, Hosams Abu Meri, Uģis Mitrevics, Andris Kulbergs, Viktors Valainis and Daiga Mieriņa.
The suggested amendments state that all promotional materials published and broadcasted by electronic mass media and put on billboards, public transport stops and other forms of political campaigning are to be done only in the state language.
The condition to use only the state language would also apply to paid promotional services on public electronic communications networks, including the internet.
This is not planned to be applied to websites of political parties and their unions.
At the same time, new requirements would permit promotional materials for European Parliament and municipal elections to include a translation into other official languages of the European Union as long as the proportion of Latvian language is printed or other form is not smaller than that of foreign languages.
Saeima deputies also propose listing institutions that would be responsible for monitoring possible violations.
«These amendments are meant to prevent a possible controversy with the constitution – the current order basically maintains a parallel language for communication with society when it comes to such a fundamental topic as execution of voting rights,» ZZS deputies and members of the coalition explain.
Members of the parliament are concerned that this approach could marginalize and divide Latvian residents by making pre-election campaigning materials accessible to a single linguistic group, not all Latvian residents who have voting rights.
According to members from the National Alliance, Combined List, New Unity and Union of Greens and Farmers, the proposal is based on what is mentioned in the preamble to the Constitution, that the preservation of Latvian languages over centuries lies at the country’s very foundation.
Amendments are meant to expand the use of Latvian language before referendums and legislative initiatives. ‘These amendments will indirectly and unavoidably increase local voters’ responsibility to learn Latvian language,’ as the annotation to the legislative draft mentions.
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