Report of CLRA observers in local elections (excerpts), 1994

B. Background information on Latvia

[..]

7. The issue of citizenship

According to Article 5 of the Law on the Election of the Town/City “Dome“, Regional Council and Rural Municipality Council, ‘The rights to elect the Dome (Council) are granted to the citizens of the Republic of Latvia…’. Such a norm is not unusual in Europe, where most countries grant the right to vote only to their citizens; however in Latvia, the issue of citizenship is very delicate. In the recent history of the country mass deportation of the native population occured, while a large number of immigrants settled in the country.

The composition of the registered residents in Latvia, according to the latest available figures, is as follows:

Registered residents2,389,328
Latvians citizens1,715,938(72.0 %)

There is no direct link between citizenship and belonging to an ethnic group, and criteria relating to residence in the country at different periods of Latvian history also have to be taken into account. Due to these criteria, 277,352 ethnic Russians out of the 709,952 registered Russians living in Latvia have citizens’ rights. This leaves 432,600 members of the Russian minority without Latvian citizenship; a few ethnic Latvians are also denied citizenship according to these criteria. There are also 86,714 citizens of Latvia who are neither Latvian ethnics nor Russian ethnics.

At the national level, some 28 % of the residents are non-citizens and are therefore denied the right to take part in local elections. The issues is much more acute in large towns, where minorities sometimes account for more than half of the resident population. In towns like Jurmala or Riga, some 50 % of the residents have no citizens’ rights. In towns like Liepaja or Daugavpils, the proportion of citizens to the total resident population is respectively 38% and 25%. In rural areas, the very large majority of the resident population are citizens.

From these figures, it clearly appears that the issue of representation of non-citizens, which in some local authorities represents a substantial share or even the majority of the population is a very serious one. Two solutions to this question are foreseen. First, a new law on citizenship (the existing law on citizenship was adopted in 1919 and has only received some amendments) is being prepared and should be adopted in the near future. Second, provisions exist for local elected representatives to constitute consultative bodies to represent the interests of non-citizens in local authorities where they make up a substantial share of the population.

For these reasons, even though the issue of citizenship was not clearly settled at the time of the local elections, all the communities and political forces met by the delegation accepted the holding of these elections, and even when requesting another definition of theright to vote, did not challenge their validity.

C. Organisation of the elections

[..]

11. Registration of candidates

Article 8 of the Electoral Law [..] Article 9 [..] This article also disqualifies those “who do not know the state language to the highest (third) level of the knowledge of the state language”.

[..]

D. Visit of the observer delegation

[..]

14. Meeting with representatives of political parties

[..]

The representatives from “Fatherland and Freedom” – the most “right wing” party – and from the “Equality and Right Party” – the most “left wing” which claims equal citizenship rights for Latvians and Russians – had an argument about citizenship and the right to vote. The delegation however noted that the representative from Equality and Right, despite his requests about the right to vote, did not contest the legality and the validity of the election according to the Law passed on 26 January 1994.

In general, all the Parties agreed that the law provided sufficient guarantees for the elections to be fair and democratic, and none foresaw major difficulties.

15. Meeting with representatives of local government

The Union of Local Authorities Associations groups several associations representing the interests of different types of local and regional authorities. The delegation met with six representatives of different types of local and regional authorities, all holding an electoral mandate on at the local or regional level. One of these persons did not, according to the new election law, have citizens’ rights and was therefore not allowed to vote, not to mention run for a mandate. She was interested in the political campaign in her municipal rural district and showed understanding for the fact that she could not participate in the vote. It is however hard to say whether such behaviour is representative of the non-citizens in Latvia,

[..]

Representatives from cities showed concern that a large part of the population in their constituencies had no right to vote. They were already considering ways to give some sort of representation in local decisions to the population that had not taken part in the election of the local council.

[..]

16. Organisation of the polling stations

[..]

Old or disabled persons have the right, according to the Electoral Law, to be helped in the voting booth by a person of their choice, provided he/she is a Latvian citizen and not a member of the electoral commision.

[..] In some polling stations Russian citizens were allowed to walk in to accompany voters, in others they were denied access to the polling station.

[..]

17. Interviews with voters and non-citizens

[..] Several of the persons interviewed preferred to express themselves in the Russian language, and the interpreters diligently agreed to use Russian. These persons had no problem in understanding the instructions, even though they were only printed in Latvian.

In several cases, persons from a same family included citizens and non-citizens. They had come together to the polling station, and they all showed understanding about the existing situation, considering it as a necessary transitonry period. Non-citizens did not express resentment, and said they would consider the result of the elections as validly appointing the government of their local authority.

18. Use of the Russian language

As mentioned above, official information about the local and regional elections were only provided in Latvian. A significant number of residents, including citizens, still prefer using the Russian language. They did not, however, have any difficulty in understanding the explanations.

Furthermore, we witnessed cases of Chairpersons of the electoral commissions answering requests for explanations from voters in Russian. Most electoral commissions visited by the delegation were asked if they were ready to provide information to voters in the Russian language. They all answered affirmatively.

The delegation understands and respects the motives for using only the national language in the official publications, but welcomes the flexibility of members of local electoral commissions which did everything in their capacity to make sure that citizens could cast their votes without confusion.


Document data: 02.08.1994. CG/Bur (1) 13. Link: https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId=090000168071887c

Minority lists in Latvian elections, 1931 & 1993


June 1993 elections to the parliament. Riga multi-seat constituency. Russian National Democratic List (Democratic Initiative Centre – Baltic Constitutional Party),
October 1931 elections to the parliament. Zemgale multi-seat constituency. The list of candidates by Orthodox and Old Believer voters and unified Russian organisations

Minority list documents of 1922-1931 elections: from an exhibition by the Latvian State Historical Archives. The Social Democrats did campaign in Russian, German and Yiddish as well.

Situation of human rights in Estonia and Latvia

The General Assembly,

Guided by the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants on Human Rights,

Reaffirming that all member States have an obligation to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all and to fulfil the obligations they have undertaken under the various international instruments in this field,

Being convinced that respect for human rights is an inalienable component of maintaining and promoting good-neighbourly relations between States,

Taking into account the complaint of alleged violations of human rights with respect to the Russian-speaking population in Estonia and Latvia,

Noting the conclusions and recommendations made by the United Nations fact-finding mission that visited Riga in October 1992 at the invitation of the Government of Latvia,

1. Notes with concern the existence of certain problems which involve large groups of population in Estonia and Latvia;

2. Welcomes the cooperation that the Government of Latvia has extended to the United Nations fact-finding mission;

3. Also welcomes the invitation of the Government of Estonia to receive a similar United Nations fact-finding mission and its intention to extend to it its cooperation;

4. Calls upon the States concerned to intensify their efforts on the bilateral level aimed at resolving concerns with regard to the situation of the Russian-speaking population on the basis of generally accepted norms of international law in the field of human rights;

5. Requests the Secretary-General to keep Member States informed of the progress in the field of human rights in Estonia and Latvia and to report to the General Assembly at its forty-eighth session under the item entitled “Situation of human rights in Estonia and Latvia”.


Document data: General Assembly resolution No. 47/115, 16.12.1992. Link: http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/resolutions/47/115GA1992.html

Resolution “On the renewal of Republic of Latvia citizens’ rights and fundamental principles of naturalization”, 1991

Republic of Latvia

Supreme Council

resolution

“On the renewal of Republic of Latvia citizens’ rights and fundamental principles of naturalization”

Although the Republic of Latvia was occupied on June 17, 1940 and the state lost its sovereign power, the aggregate body of Republic of Latvia citizens, in accordance with the Republic of Latvia “Law about citizenship” of August 23, 1919, continues to exist.

As a result of the long-standing internationally illegal annexation of Latvia’s territory, a large number of USSR citizens, whose entry and residency have not been accepted by any treaty between the Republic of Latvia and the USSR, have settled in Latvia.

To eliminate the consequences of the USSR’s occupation and annexation of Latvia and to renew the legal rights of the aggregate body of Republic of Latvia citizens,

the Republic of Latvia Supreme Council resolves:

1. To recognize as invalid with regard to Republic of Latvia citizens, from themoment of its adoption, the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium decree of September 7, 1940 “On the order in which the Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia Soviet Socialist Republic citizens are granted USSR citizenship”.

2. To institute the following order to determine the existing aggregate body of Republic of Latvia citizens:

2.1. Persons who belong to the aggregate body of Republic of Latvia citizens and who had Republic of Latvia citizenship on June 17, 1940 and their descendants, who at the moment of this resolution’s adoption live in the
Republic of Latvia, who register by July 1, 1992, and who receive Republic of Latvia passports according to the procedures set forth by the Republic of Latvia Council of Ministers.

2.2. Persons who belong to the aggregate body of Republic of Latvia citizens and who had Republic of Latvia citizenship on June 17, 1940 and their descendants, who at the moment of this resolution’s adoption do not live in the Republic of Latvia or are citizens of another country, can at any time register and, if they show their permission of expatriation, can receive Republic of Latvia passports according to the procedures set forth by the Republic of Latvia Council of Ministers.

2.3. A Republic of Latvia citizen cannot simultaneously be a citizen of another country.

3. To establish the following fundamental principles of naturalization:

3.1. The Republic of Latvia Supreme Council Presidium, on the basis of regulation adopted by the Republic of Latvia Supreme Council, can grant Republic of Latvia citizenship to persons with outstanding accomplishments which benefit the Republic of Latvia.

3.2. At the moment this resolution takes effect, those persons permanently living and registered in Latvia who, not having the Republic of Latvia citizenship, had legally entered into Republic of Latvia territory and had resided permanently in Latvia on June 17, 1940 and their descendants, who at the moment this resolution takes effect, live and are permanently registered in Latvia, who register by July 1, 1992, and, if they have lost their former citizenship, will upon their request be granted Republic of Latvia citizenship.

This subsection does not apply to persons who arrived in Latvia in accordance with the October 5, 1939 Mutual Assistance Pact between Latvia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

3.3. Persons, who, in accordance with section 1 of the August 23, 1919 “Law about citizenship”, could have claimed Latvian state citizenship, and their descendents, who, at the moment this resolution takes effect, live in
the Republic of Latvia, who register by July 1, 1992 and upon their request, can be granted Republic of Latvia citizenship, if they forfeit their former citizenship and have learned the Latvian language at a conversational level.

3.4. Persons who are not included in the categories described in subsections 2.1., 2.2., 3.1., 3.2., 3.3. of this resolution and who, at the moment this resolution takes effect, live and are permanently registered in Latvia, and who register by July 1, 1992, can be granted Republic of Latvia citizenship in the order determined by the Republic of Latvia law “About citizenship”, if they:

  1. have learned the Latvian language at a conversational level, which examination shall be determined by specific regulations adopted by the Republic of Latvia Supreme Council;
  2. submit an application renouncing their previous citizenship and have received permission of expatriation from that country, if such is required by that country’s law;
  3. at the moment this resolution takes effect, have lived and have been
    permanently-registered residents of Latvia for no less than 16 years;
  4. know the fundamental principles of the Republic of Latvia Constitution; and
  5. have sworn a citizen’s oath to the Republic of Latvia.

To be granted citizenship, all the above requirements and those of subsection 3.5. must be met.

3.5. Republic of Latvia citizenship is not granted to persons who:

  1. using anti-constitutional methods have turned against the Republic of Latvia’s independence, its democratic, parliamentary state system or the existing state power in Latvia, if such has been established by a court decree;
  2. have been convicted with imprisonment for intentional criminal acts or have been called to criminal responsibility at the time that the granting of citizenship is being decided;
  3. are serving in the USSR Armed Forces, USSR Interior Armed Forces or state security services, as well as persons who after June 17, 1940 have chosen the Republic of Latvia as their place of residence after demobilization from the USSR Armed Forces, USSR Interior Armed Forces or state security services and who, upon induction into such service, did not permanently reside in Latvia’s territory;
  4. have committed crimes against humanity, international or war crimes or have also participated in mass repressions, if such has been established in a court decree;
  5. spread chauvinism, fascism, communism or other totalitarian, as well as social class dictatorial ideas, inflame national and racial discord or hatred, if such has been established in a court decree;
  6. have been sent into Latvia after June 17, 1940 as USSR Communist Party and Komsomol personnel;
  7. are registered in medical institutions for drug addicts and/or chronic alcoholics;
  8. live without a legal source of income.

3.6. Naturalization, excluding the matters described in subsections 3.1. and 3.2. of this resolution, will begin no sooner than July 1, 1992 and will be accomplished in accordance with the Republic of Latvia law “About citizenship”.

4. This resolution takes effect upon its adoption.

Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia Andrejs Krastins

Acting Secretary of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia Aivars Endzins

Riga October 15, 1991

The authenticity of this translation is confirmed by Secretary of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia Imants Daudiss


Document data: adopted 15.10.1991. Link: https://web.archive.org/web/20150914065651/http://barhumanrights.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/biblio/missionlatvia.pdf (pp. 76-78). Latvian original available at: https://likumi.lv/doc.php?id=69914