Overshadowed by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and concerns about rising energy costs, Latvia has elected a new parliament. According to forecasts, a victory has emerged for the ruling party of Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins. However, his liberal-conservative Jauna Vienotiba (New Unity) and his three allies are likely to lose a majority in Saeima’s parliament in Riga. The first official results are expected on Sunday night.
According to the joint post-election poll by Latvian radio and the Leta news agency, Jauna Vienotiba could expect 22.5% of the vote – and thus become the strongest force in the new parliament in Riga. The newly founded electoral alliance United List followed with 11.5 percent, ahead of the opposition Alliance of Farmers and Greens with 10.9 percent.
Only two of Karin’s coalition partners, the national-conservative National Alliance (8.4%) and the liberal party “For Development – For!” (5.2%) can count on entering parliament. The Conservatives, who have also ruled so far, have just 3.5%. The current center-right government would no longer have a majority.
Harmony opposition party misses out on Saeima
According to the post-election poll, a total of eight parties could make it to parliament. Not among them is the opposition “Harmonie” party – the strongest political force in Latvia to date. The party, whose core voters come mainly from the strong minority of Russian origin, was the most voted in the last elections but was always left out when the government was formed.
Nearly 6,500 voters were asked about their vote for the prediction. The parties were initially just wary of the results – post-election polls had already proved unreliable in past elections. A good 1.5 million voters were called to determine the 100 seats in Parliament. Nineteen parties and alliances have contested the tenth election since Latvia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. In the run-up to the vote, researchers and experts therefore expected a fragmented parliament in the Baltic Republic.
Karins, who was born in Delaware, US, to parents who fled Latvia when the country was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union after World War II, said he was ready to lead the new government after the vote. “I voted for a safe and stable Latvia,” he told the polling station. The 57-year-old returned to Riga in 1997, having previously completed his PhD in linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Russian aggression war determines election campaign
The election campaign has been dominated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which Latvia sees as a direct threat to national security. Since then, Karins’ party has been one of the strongest advocates of tightening sanctions in the EU. He called on NATO to strengthen its eastern flank, including Latvia’s 214 km border with Russia. Under his rule, Latvia also toppled the 80-meter-tall Soviet monument in the capital. Karins also promised to remove more Soviet monuments. The Baltic state borders Russia and its ally Belarus.
Russia’s invasion also raised thorny issues in Latvia. These include the use of the Russian language, the loyalty of ethnic Russians in Latvia and a debate on the national culture of remembrance.