Monday, 10 December, 2018

Dissatisfied Latvians turn to newcomers in parliamentary election

Russia-Leaning Party Expected to Place First in Latvia Elections		Phil Cole  Getty Images6 Oct 2018 Russia-Leaning Party Expected to Place First in Latvia Elections Phil Cole Getty Images6 Oct 2018
Ellis Copeland | 09 October, 2018, 14:58

Voters in Latvia, which is a member of the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, are choosing from more than 1,400 candidates and 16 parties to fill the small Baltic country's 100-seat parliament, or Saeima.

Latvian public broadcaster LSM's latest poll had the left-leaning Harmony party favored by ethnic-Russians securing the greatest share of the vote, 17.2 percent.

The country's Russian minority is a major political force as it accounts about 25 per cent of Latvia's almost 2 million people, a legacy of almost 50 years of Soviet occupation that ended in 1991.

Latvia is a member of both the eurozone and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, having joined the military alliance in 2004.

A fragmented result makes it hard for the prime minister, Maris Kucinskis, whose Liepaja Party won 10 per cent of the vote, to retain power.

Along with fellow Baltic states Estonia and Lithuania, Latvia declared independence in 1918 after the Tsarist Russian empire collapsed.

And Harmony, which was formerly allied with Putin's United Russia party, is popular with them.

"Now. voters want new faces: the current ministers can not offer anything entertaining". The National Alliance would have thirteen and the Unit, renamed the New Unit, could not cross the eligibility threshold of 5%.

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New Unity, a center-right party established on the basis of the center-right Unity party, will also be represented in the new parliament as it won 6.7 percent of the votes, according to the results.

Harmony meanwhile has signed on some high-profile ethnic Latvians as their frontrunners, and is on track to come out ahead with at least 28 seats.

During the parliamentary elections of 2014, he arrived first, but could not take the power, all the other parties refusing to enter into coalition with him. But many observers say they expect KPV LV and the New Conservatives to attempt to form a coalition with the Kremlin-friendly party.

With 100 seats in total, any coalition model would need to control 51 seats to assure a simple majority in parliament. Political analyst Marcis Bendiks said Harmony's campaign promise to cut defence spending to one percent of GDP went against North Atlantic Treaty Organisation agreements.

Kaimins was briefly detained over alleged corruption in June, but that does not appear to have bothered voters.

"KPV LV can work with all, we have no red line for another political force", said Mr. Gobzems during a political debate on channel TV24.

Polling stations close at 1700 GMT with a preliminary official result expected around 0100 GMT Sunday morning.

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