Ethnic Russians seen as having weight in Latvian election

Frederick Owens
October 9, 2018

The party, whose main support comes from Latvia's ethnic Russian minority, won most seats at the last election but was sidelined from power when mainstream parties refused to include it in any deal due to its ties with the Kremlin.

The outgoing coalition of the centre-right has managed to revive the national economy after the 2009 crisis, but the electorate, exhausted by the effort, is in search of new faces.

KPV LV followed with 14.06 percent and the New Conservative Party with 13.6 percent voter support.

Polls closed at 8 p.m. (1700 GMT, 1 p.m. EDT) but voting was continuing at selected sites in North America for several more hours.

This prospect is scary for more than one in this baltic country of 1.9 million inhabitants, whose history is marked by hard relations with the large Russian neighbour.

With about half of the vote counted, Latvia's pro-minority Social Democrats are leading in the parliamentary poll in this Baltic country, the Central Election Commission said.

It enjoys broad support from the Russian minority, which accounts for about 25 percent of the Baltic country's almost 2 million people.

Latvia, an EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member, is now ruled by a center-right coalition of the Unity party, the Union of Greens and Farmers and the National Alliance, but opinion polls have shown it losing ground.

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"Harmony", which is headed by the mayor of Riga, Nil Ushakov, completed the elections with a score of 19.9%.

Some Latvians were optimistic about the vote, including Evalds, 75.

"We're expecting changes. We need patience with the 16 (competing parties)", Evalds told The Associated Press in Riga.

According to the latest poll, the Greens and Peasants, at the head of the outgoing government, would not receive Saturday as fifteen seats in a parliament that in cent account. Sunday's results give the party 23 seats, one less than in the last election.

Relations between Russian Federation and Latvia have been frayed by Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

"Given that the new Saeima is split, the creation of an efficient coalition without Harmony's votes and our voters is impossible in general", Usakovs said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken a strong interest in defending the rights of ethnic Russians in the Baltics, and the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been wary of increased Russian military presence in the region. "But I have lived in Riga my whole life and so have five generations of my ancestors", she told the AP.

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