Latvia vote: pro-Russian and populist in pole position


This time around, however, it could find the necessary ally in the KPV LV, a populist party led by former stage actor Artuss Kaimins, who has retained popularity with voters despite his being detained over corruption allegations in June.

Latvia is a member of both the eurozone and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, having joined the military alliance in 2004. There is a risk that the power there may come the Pro-Russian party "Consent".

Before the election, some Latvians feared a strong result for Harmony and KPV could lead to them forming a government and bringing the Latvia's foreign policy closer to Putin's Russian Federation.

Latvians voted in a parliamentary election Saturday in which a party catering to the Baltic nation's large ethnic Russian minority is expected to win the most support but have trouble forming a coalition government.

About a quarter of Latvia's 2.2 million population are Russian-speaking.

It is followed by the New Conservative Party with 16 seats, KPV LV with 15 seats, the National Alliance with 13 seats, Development/For with 13 seats, the Greens and Farmers Union with 11 seats and New Unity with eight seats.

Under their watch the economy, hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis, has resumed growth.

"The message that the voters have tried to send is that we're going to have some new faces in politics", Janis Ikstens, political scientist at Latvia University, told Reuters. Then the parliament will approve the new cabinet of ministers.

Therefore numerous coalition combinations look potentially possible.

Unity, now rebranded as New Unity, might not even meet the five-percent threshold required to make it into parliament.

Casting his ballot in the eastern town of Rezekne, Aigars Karklins said the prospect of Harmony teaming up with populists was realistic.

Other parties did better than previous polls had suggested.

The second-placed populist KPV LV got 14. Alternatively, they could cut a deal with the center-right parties, and form a right-wing coalition more akin to those in Austria and Bulgaria.

Harmony has so far been sitting in opposition in Latvia's 100-seat parliament, and compared to the general election in 2014 in which Harmony won with 23 percent, voter support for the party has dropped to 19.9 percent this year.

And the party's candidate for prime minister, lawyer Aldis Gobzems, recently suggested they were open to working with other parties.

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



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