RIGA, Latvia, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- After the votes were counted Sunday, the referendum to make Russian the second official language of Latvia was defeated.
In order to pass, the referendum needed the affirmative votes of at least 771,983 Latvian citizens, or half of all eligible voters to pass. In Saturday's vote, more than 820,000 Latvian citizens voted against the measure, RIA Novosti reported.
Riga Mayor Nil Ushakov, who backed the referendum, vowed Sunday to continue to defend the interests of Latvia's Russian-speaking population.
"A total of 273,347 people voted for this initiative. For me, this number formulates a clear-cut task: to defend till the end your interests," he said Sunday in a post on his Facebook page.
Most Russian-speaking citizens chose to remain in the country when the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991 and Latvia gained its independence.
Russian-speakers make up 44 percent of Latvia's population of 2.3 million. Latvia is considered the country's first language, while Russian is treated as a foreign language. Many Russian-speaking people who live in Latvia are assigned "non-citizen" status, meaning they have no passport and cannot vote.