Signature collection for referendum against partnership ends Friday

On Friday, January 5, the month-long collection of signatures to propose a referendum on the abolition of the implementation of the Partnership Institute concludes with a lukewarm, if not chilly, turnout, Latvian Radio reports.

The month of signature collection has passed, and of approximately 155,000 signatures needed to trigger the referendum, just over a seventh have been collected.  Specific data on exactly how many signatures have been collected by the last day of collection cannot yet be named by the Central Election Commission (CVK) as there is still an opportunity to sign today. 

On a provisional basis, this rather pointless collection of signatures has cost just over one million euros, but the exact amount will be known in the coming weeks when all municipalities have informed the CVK of their costs. Taking into account the high costs for such signature collection, the CVK will invite the Saeima to amend the law  in order to ensure the possibility to sign electronically.

The opposition parties of the Saeima said that they hoped for more responsiveness from residents in collecting signatures. According to Saeima deputy Ramona Petraviča of the opposition “Latvia First” party, it is “not possible to collect more than 154 000 signatures”, because it is too high a threshold at the current population, regardless of the issue.

She added that the time of collection of signatures – December, with holidays – was very unfortunate, and it was “difficult to obtain information and, in particular, to understand where and what was to be signed”.

Latvia First has tried hard, both by posting information on social networks and by speaking to religious representatives and conducting interviews, but, as the deputy emphasized, it was not just the work of Latvia First.

Saeima deputy Jānis Grasbergs of the opposition National Alliance also admitted in an interview with Latvian Radio Friday morning that there had been a feeling that the population's activity in collecting signatures would be higher.

However, the head of the Saeima Legal Affairs Committee and the deputy of New Unity represented in the coalition Andrejs Judins said:

“If any bill or law was important to a person, there is no doubt he or she would go and sign the proposal.”

Consequently, the results of the present case show that that regulation is acceptable to a large part of the public. This, according to Judins, is not indifference, but simply a manifestation of attitudes.

“We see statements from individual politicians that the nation is against this regulation, but they are unconfirmed. I think that means more people are accepting the new regulation and realizing that if people can register partnerships, then the rights of other people, and their interests will not be compromised. Collecting signatures requires resources, but it is good that we now see what the attitude of the Latvian people is,” added Judins.

As previously reported by LSM, on November 9 the Saeima approved a new partnership law by means of amendments to the Notary Law that would include provision for registered same-sex partnerships (and dual-sex partnerships) with legal status and protection for the first time. Amendments to the laws are expected to come into force on July 1, 2024.

The applicable legislation was passed thanks to the government's narrow majority in parliament but was preceded by stormy debates both within the chamber and in wider society. Reaction to the partnership law has varied from joy among civil rights groups to dismay among 'family values' traditionalists.

If the referendum takes place, the law may be repealed if at least half of the number of voters who participated in the last Saeima elections participate in the referendum, and the majority of them vote to repeal the law. 916,368 voters participated in the Saeima elections, a turnout of around 60%, so a turnout of around 30% (458,184 voters) would be required for the result of any referendum to be binding.

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