Centrists in Latvia expected to win national elections


Russia’s attack on Ukraine shaped Saturday’s general election in neighboring Latvia, where divisions among the Baltic country’s sizable Russian ethnic minority are expected to influence the makeup of parliament and war-induced energy concerns will dominate the debate. next government.

A joint exit poll after polls closed on Saturday predicted that Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins’ center-right New Unity party would win the election, with 22.5 percent of the vote. The survey was conducted by Riga Stradins University, the SKDSA research center. the LETA news, Latvian Television and Latvian Radio.

The poll also predicted that a new centrist party that favors green development, the United List, would come in second with 11.5 percent of the vote and the opposition Greens and Farmers Union would come in third with 10.9 percent. support. Only eight parties are expected to break the 5 percent barrier and gain representation in the 100-seat Saeima legislature.

A total of 19 parties had more than 1,800 candidates in the elections. Official results are expected on Sunday morning.

Karins, who became head of the Latvian government in January 2019, currently leads a four-party minority coalition that, along with New Unity, includes the centre-right National Alliance, the centrist Development/For! and the conservatives.

Karins, a 57-year-old Latvian-American citizen born in Wilmington, Delaware, told Latvian media that it would be easier to continue with the same coalition government if New Unity wins. He has excluded any cooperation with pro-Kremlin parties.

Support for parties catering to Latvia’s Russian ethnic minority, which makes up more than 25 percent of Latvia’s 1.9 million people, is expected to be mixed; some loyal voters have deserted them since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

This election is likely to be the death knell for the opposition Harmony party, whose popularity has steadily declined. The Moscow-friendly party traditionally served as an umbrella for most of Latvia’s Russian-speaking voters, including Belarusians and Ukrainians. In the 2018 election, Harmony received nearly 20 per cent of the vote, the most of any party, but was barred from entering government by other parties.

However, Harmony’s immediate and staunch opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine caused many voters who still support Russian President Vladimir Putin to abandon her. Meanwhile, those who opposed the war tended to move towards the main Latvian parties, which condemned the invasion.

A recent poll by the Latvian public broadcaster LSM showed Harmony in fifth place with 5.1 percent support.

“I think the Russophone part of the population is very fragmented,” Pauls Raudseps, a columnist for the Latvian news magazine IR, told The Associated Press. “You can’t say I’m unified on anything. One part is pro-Putin. But what we’ve seen is that the war in general has changed attitudes. And it has happened pretty quickly.”

Long lines outside polling stations were reported in several places on Saturday, including the capital Riga. Many voters said the Russian invasion of Ukraine affected their attitudes.

“People are becoming more active and as you see there is already a queue. So hopefully some of the pro-Russians have switched to more European parties now,” IT engineer Ratios Shovels, 38, said in a Riga district vote. place.

Elena Dadukina, a 43-year-old lawyer, said she wasn’t sure if the healthy turnout was due “to the war or if people want more responsibility in choosing their candidates because of how they will influence our internal politics.”

Since Russia’s war against Ukraine began in February, Latvian authorities have banned Russians from entering the country on tourist visas and dismantled a major Soviet monument in Riga.

This week, the Latvian government announced a state of emergency in certain border areas as a precautionary measure following Russia’s partial military mobilization. Like Estonia’s and Lithuania’s Baltic neighbors, Latvia refuses to grant political asylum to Russian military reservists escaping conscription.

Latvia, which joined the European Union and NATO in 2004, also plans to reintroduce conscription next year after a hiatus of more than 15 years.


AP video journalist Eduard Kolik contributed from Riga, Latvia.

Leave a Comment