Several parties refuse to participate in pre-election debates in Russian

Several political forces will not take part in pre-election debates and broadcasts in Russian, according to statements by the parties to the media on May 16.

The minority-language public media platform will host pre-election debates in Russian. This has called for widespread criticism from politicians, public figures, and state bodies. The participants will be able to speak in Latvian, and an interpreter will translate the debate into Russian.

According to New Unity's statement, given the public discussion about the organization of pre-election debates in Russian, New Unity stresses that especially since Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine it is necessary to communicate with the Latvian media in the official language of the Latvian state - Latvian. During the run-up to the European Parliament (EP) elections, discussions in the media should also be in the national language.

The party association noted that only citizens of EU Member States can stand as candidates and vote in the EP elections. Citizenship of any country requires knowledge of the national language, which ensures the ability to integrate into society and the common information space.

"The Russian language pre-election debate gives this foreign language, which is not one of the official languages of the EU Member States, a special status and importance which contradicts the guidelines of the national language policy.

"At the same time, the amendments to the Law on Pre-election Campaigning adopted by the Saeima last year strengthen the role of the state language by banning campaigning in Russian and are aimed at the full participation of European Union citizens living in Latvia in the electoral process. This approach should serve as the overarching goal of all communication during the pre-election campaign period," the New Unity statement reads.

As debate broadcasts, in the view of the party association, are a specific format for the pre-election campaign period, and taking into account the geopolitical situation, New Unity has decided not to participate in the pre-election debates in Russian.

New Unity later specified that it would still decide on participation if they could speak Latvian with translation into Russian.

In a statement to the media, the National Alliance (NA) says that it does not support and considers unacceptable the idea of holding the EP pre-election debate in Russian and will not participate in it, and calls on other political parties to take a clear position on this issue.

"NA will defend the status of the state language in all possible ways, including by submitting amendments to the law," the party said in a statement.

NA believes that pre-election communication should be conducted entirely in Latvian - both paid pre-election campaigning, which is regulated by the Law on Pre-election Campaigning, and debates in the media. In a meeting with representatives of the Public Electronic Mass Media Council (SEPLP) next week, the NA will call for respect for the status of Latvian as a state language enshrined in the Constitution.

Also the United List announced that it would only take part in the Latvian-language debate, according to an X entry by the party's representative Reinis Pozņaks.

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