Pro-Russia party wins #Latvia election

Lamar Ellis
October 9, 2018

It holds 24 out of the 100 seats in parliament and recently rebranded itself as a Western-style Social Democratic party, saying it is committed to the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

But the center-left and pro-Moscow Harmony party enjoys strong support among Latvia's ethnic Russian minority, which makes up about a quarter of the country's 1.9 million population.

Party and the New Conservative Party secured support of 14.06% and 13.60%, respectively.

"Forming a new government will be very hard", current Prime Minister Māris Kucinskis of the Union of Greens and Farmers said after the election.

The ethnic Russian minority there is 25%.

Hackers targeted the Draugiem.lv network, second in popularity only to Facebook in the Baltic state, with a pro-Russian message.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation now has more than 1,000 troops deployed in the Baltic country of 2 million and even the potential of a minor shift in allegiance in Latvia will worry both Brussels and Washington.

With a quarter of voters remaining undecided on the eve of the election, according to independent polling firm SKDS, the result is still wide open.

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"Voters want new faces: the current ministers can not offer anything entertaining", political scientist Filips Rajevskis told AFP.

Latvia's mainstream parties have kept pro-Russia politicians from power as they sought ever closer ties with the West.

Other parties have previously formed coalitions to keep Harmony out of government.

Observers say it is unlikely that Harmony, led by Nils Usakovs, who has been mayor of Riga, the capital, since 2009, would team up with Kucinskis' party in a coalition because of substantial policy differences.

For Development/For, a new political alliance formed by several parliament members who left the center-right Unity party a year ago, received 12 percent of all votes, leaving the National Alliance in fifth place with 11 percent, down from 16.61 percent in the previous general election.

Since 2016, Kucinskis has led a three-party governing coalition with the national-conservative National Alliance and the liberal Unity parties. "We don't have any red lines regarding any other political force", lawyer Aldis Gobzems, KPV LV's candidate for prime minister, said in a recent TV debate.

With 100 seats in total, any coalition model would need to control 51 seats to assure a simple majority in parliament. Of the exit polls should be published shortly after, while the official results will come Sunday.

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