Latvian premier’s party comes out on top in general election

Latvian premier’s party comes out on top in general election
Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins speaks to the media while awaiting the results of parliamentary elections (Roman Koksarov/AP)

Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins’ ruling centre-right party has won the most votes in Latvia’s general election.

Centrist parties were runners-up and pro-Moscow parties crashed in a vote that was shaped by neighbouring Russia’s war in Ukraine and divisions among the Baltic country’s sizeable ethnic Russian minority.

With more than 97% of the ballots counted, initial results on Sunday showed that Mr Karins’ New Unity party has won 18.9% of the votes, while the opposition Union of Greens and Farmers was second with 12.8% and the new centrist electoral alliance United List – made up of several regional parties – was third with 11%.

Only eight parties or electoral alliances passed the 5% barrier and secured representation at the 100-seat Saeima legislature, including the centre-right National Alliance and the centrist Development/For!, which are both members of Mr Karins’ current minority coalition government.

Latvian President Egils Levits casts his vote at a polling station during general elections in Riga (Roman Koksarov/AP)

None of the parties catering to Latvia’s ethnic Russian minority, which makes up more than 25% of the country’s 1.9 million population, managed to secure a seat in Parliament.

Saturday’s election dealt a particular blow to Harmony, a Moscow-friendly party that traditionally served as an umbrella for most of Latvia’s Russian-speaking voters, including Belarusians and Ukrainians.

Harmony received a mere 4.8% of votes in comparison to the 2018 election, when it garnered almost 20% of the vote, the most of any single party, but was excluded by other parties from entering the government.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 had a substantial effect on voter attitudes, observers say, and resulted in deep divisions between Russian-speakers opposing and those supporting the war. Latvia’s economic situation, including soaring energy prices, was the main election issue.

Initial voter turnout was 59%, the Central Election Committee said – an increase of around five percentage points from the 2018 election.

Latvia joined the European Union and Nato in 2004.

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