'Burqa ban' law falls at first hurdle

An attempt by the opposition Latvian Regional Alliance (LRA) party to introduce legislation that would ban face-covering in public - including the burqa and other styles favored by some branches of Islam - fell at the first hurdle in Saeima Thursday.

Despite generating a great deal of press coverage in recent weeks, the issue failed to rouse Saeima deputies who showed little interest in the proposal which would have seen public face covering banned from January 1, 2016.

The legislation also contained exemptions for example allowing face covering on medical grounds and for sporting or cultural events.

29 out of 100 members of parliament backed the proposal, 8 voted against, 45 chose to abstain and 5 didn't bother to vote at all.

The voting pattern was interesting however with LRA's 8 deputies joined by a signifiant number from 'social democrat' opposition party Harmony and even Solvita Aboltina, a senior figure within the Unity party of Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma.

Also contrary to expectations, the right-wing National Alliance members were split between opposing the ban and abstaining with not a single member supporting.

However, a burqa ban may not be entirely off the agenda with the possibility that government coalition parties may be preparing their own legislative proposals on the matter.

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