The elections to the “Parliament of those without representation” will be held on the same day as municipal polls in the country. The Non-Citizen Congress, a new public movement defending the rights of minorities, was founded last week at a convention that gathered about 400 members.Over 300,000 of Latvia’s 2 million population are considered non-citizens who have a residence permit but cannot vote in elections or referendums, and are barred from holding official posts. Most of these non-citizens are Russian speakers, but not necessarily ethnic Russians, who came to Latvia in the Soviet era, or their children.Rights activists announced that the alternative parliament would become a medium for the will of the people who together seek to eliminate the unjust and non-democratic institute of non-citizenship. The elections are seen as a means to influence authorities and attract more public attention to the problem.The event could also provide exposure to those with non-citizen status who have both the opportunity and desire to become public leaders who want to represent the non-citizen community in Latvian and international organizations.Representatives of the congress said that both citizens and non-citizens would be allowed to participate in the elections.Last year, Latvian authorities banned a referendum that would introduce an automatic procedure for granting citizenship to non-citizens; International law and security concerns were given as reasons for the decision.Russia has repeatedly criticized Latvian law on non-citizens, calling it the biggest problem in Russian relations with European countries. Russian officials repeatedly called on Latvia and neighboring Estonia to scrap the non-citizens laws, and observed that these nations had ignored corresponding recommendations from the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe, even though these international blocs have traditionally acted as allies.
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