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11.12.2008   To the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

Mr Yavuz MILDON, President



Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

Avenue de l’Europe

F-67075 STRASBOURG CEDEX - France

 

December 11, 2008

 

The Last Chance



 

Lack of implementation of recommendations

concerning voting rights in local elections for non-citizens of Latvia

 

Dear Sir!

 

1. On the 6th of June, 2009, there will be elections to local councils and European Parliament in Latvia. All citizens of the other EU Member States are entitled to stand for election and vote in both. The term of residency in Latvia is 10 months for the candidates and 3 months for the voters.

In the same time, non-citizens, constituting approximately a half of ethnic minorities in Latvia, won’t be permitted to elect and won’t be eligible. Some 1/3 of non-citizens were born in Latvia and the average term of residency in Latvia of other non-citizens is about 40 years.[1]

We pay your attention to the fact that the number of seats from Latvia in the European Parliament is proportional to the number of all its permanent inhabitants: Latvia gets 2 out of its current 9 seats for non-citizens account. If only citizens were taken into account during the seat division, Latvia would not have more places than Slovenia (seven).

It is necessary to outline that none of the local elections held in Latvia since the restoration of independence was universal. Local elections in 2005 cannot be called universal elections, too. In such big cities as Riga, Liepaja and Ventspils the number of participants of these elections was comparable to the number of adult capable city–dwellers lacking the right to vote.

Table 1

The number of disenfranchised people of electoral age in the biggest cities of Latvia at municipal elections in March 2005

 



































































































City/Region


The number of people of electoral age


In electoral list [2]


de facto participated in elections [3]


disenfranchised [4]


Riga


385.967


204.056


181.054


Daugavpils


60.698


33.186


23.496


Jelgava


37.918


16.822


11.830


Jurmala


31.460


18.346


11.554


Liepaja


43.352


21.587


20.552


Rezekne


26.150


16.105


2991


Ventspils


23.667


11.713


9820


Whole Latvia


1.418.445


749.709


352.997


 

 

Consequently, there were only 6% of representatives of ethnic minorities among candidates in local elections in 1997.[5] They constituted 7.6% [6] and 17.4%[7] of elected councillors in elections in 2001 and 2005. However, ethnic minorities were 42.3% of the population, according to the census of 2000.[8]

 

2. Secretariat of the Special Assignments Minister for Social Integration Affairs has carried out a representational public opinion survey[9] (1200 respondents, distributed according to the place of residence, ethnic background, citizenship and age on pro rata basis according to these characteristics in population composition) as regards naturalization problems in 2008.

Only 7% of the respondents consider it necessary to toughen the naturalization procedure. Some 26% more support the official position of Parliament – to make no amendments in Law on Citizenship. 32% of the respondents think that it is necessary to grant citizenship for the newborn children of non-citizens automatically, 30% demand to simplify the naturalization procedure for elderly people, 18% outlined that citizenship should be automatically given to graduates of minority schools, but 13% call to introduce all these simplifications.

47% of the respondents answered in the affirmative and 39% answered in the negative to the question on expansion of franchise to non-citizens for local elections.

Since 2003 members of the Parliament of Latvia, elected mainly by representatives of national minorities, have proposed for 15 times (2003.04.10, 2004.01.15, 2004.06.17, 2004.09.23, 2004.10.21, 2004.11.11, 2005.03.03, 2006.04.06, 2007.03.22, 2007.04.26, 2008.03.06, 2008.06.19, 2008.09.18, 2008.10.02, 2008.12.11.)[10] to allow non-citizens of Latvia to local elections, but all these proposals are being invariably rejected.

In 2008, 28 organizations of national minorities of Latvia and 27 Russian communities of EU countries applied to the President of the country with a request to have a meeting with their representatives and to discuss an issue on submission of an according legislative initiative to the Parliament. The President has avoided meeting the representatives of national minorities.[11]

 

3. The mass statelessness in Latvia will be preserved yet for many decades. Since 2004 the tempos of submission of applications for naturalization have decreased 8 times. (table 2).

 

 

 

Table 2

The number of submitted applications for naturalization [12]

 





































Year


2003


2004


2005


2006


2007


2008


Applications


11268


21297


19807


10581


3308


2779*


* extrapolation for 9 months of year

 

As of 2008, some 16.5 thousand children of non-citizens, born after 21 August 1991, remain non-citizens.[13] There were only 8000 people over 60 years old who managed to come through naturalization, or 7% from the number of non-citizens of this age at present. There are no measures being taken to accelerate the naturalization process. During the same time, the number of non-citizens in Latvia has reduced by 26%: (table 3).

 

Table 3

The reduce of the number of non-citizens

 







































































Year


2003


2004


2005


2006


2007


2008


The number of non-citizens [14]


504227


481352


452033


418440


392816


372000


The share of non-citizens in population composition [15]


0,276


0,262


0,244


0,223


0,208


0,164


The share of non-citizens amid the non-Latvians [16]


0,521


0,502


0,476


0,445


0,420


0,401


 

Only 25% of this reduction has been attained owing to naturalization, but the rest is the result of surplus of deaths over births and emigration.

 

4. On December 3, 2008, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe has adopted its Recommendation 257 (2008) named “Local democracy in Latvia: the participation of non-citizens in public and political life at local level”, stating in Para. 11: “11. Recommends that the Latvian authorities: (..) b. enact new legislation or amend existing laws, granting non-citizens the right to vote in local elections so as to foster their increased involvement in political life and hence their integration into Latvian society”

Also earlier: as early as on May 28, 1998 the Congress has adopted its Recommendation 47 (1998) on local and regional democracy in Latvia, Para. 9 of which states, inter alia: “b) Recommends that the Latvian parliamentary and governmental authorities recognise the people’s right to vote on issues within the competence of local authorities by acceding to the European Convention on the participation of foreigners in public life at local level.”

 

Whereas your recommendations are ignored by the government of Latvia, we kindly ask you to take effective measures for their fulfillment right now, without laying aside the issue on allowing non-citizens to local elections for another 4 years.

 

Please find enclosed two reviews describing the situation with mass-scale statelessness in Latvia:

1. The Last Prisoners of the Cold War. The stateless people of Latvia in their own words, Riga 2006.

2. Citizens of a Non-Existent State. The long-term phenomenon of mass statelessness in Latvia, Riga 2008.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Natalija Jolkina, co-chairperson

 

Genadijs Kotovs, co-chairperson

 

Aleksandrs Kuzmins, secretary

 











[1] Бузаев В. В. Неграждане Латвии – Рига: ЛКПЧ, 2007 – стр. 12-13




[2] Data of the Central Election Commission: http://www.pv2005.cvk.lv/akt/




[3] ibid.




[4] Data of Residents Register on the number of non-citizens and foreigners as at the 1st of January 2006 with respective recounting.




[5] Data of the Central Election Commission: Par visām pašvaldībām http://www.cvk.lv/cgi-bin/wdbcgiw/base/cvk.statistika




[6] Data of the Central Election Commission: Statistikas dati par pašvaldību deputātiem http://web.cvk.lv/pub/public/27524.html




[7] Data of the Central Election Commission: Statistika par 2005. g. pašvaldību vēlēšanās ievēlētājiem deputātiem http://www.cvk.lv/cvkserv/PV_2005/pv2005_rezult_plus_stat.htm 






[9] Kvantitatīvs un kvalitatīvs pētījums par sabiedrības integrācijas un pilsonības aktuālajiem aspektiem, SIA „AC Konsultācijas”, Rīga, 2008., 53 lpp. http://www.integracija.gov.lv/?id=499&sa=499&top=1&doc=1881




[10] Parliament’s website http://www.saeima.lv




[11] Ошибка президента. «Час», 18 апреля 2008 года http://www.chas.lv/win/2008/04/18/l_044.html?r=30&  




[12] Data from the Naturalization Board  www.np.gov.lv/en/faili_en/naturalizacija_eng.pdf




[13] Latvijas Republikas kārtējais ziņojums par 1965.gada Konvencijas par jebkuras rasu diskriminācijas izskaušanu izpildi Latvijas Republikā laika posmā no 2003.gada līdz 2007.gadam – 93. lpp.  http://www.mk.gov.lv/doc/2005/AMzino_050608.doc




[14] Data from the Naturalization Board http://www.np.gov.lv/index.php?id=469&top=469




[15] ibid., with recounting




[16] Recounting with application of data of Statistical Yearbook of Latvia, 2007

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