Outgoing Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins’ centrist party won Latvia’s parliamentary elections on Saturday, according to partial results covering 96% of polling stations, while parties close to the Russian minority emerged weakened.
Krisjanis Karins’ New Unity received 18.94% of the vote, while only one Russian-speaking minority-backed party, Stabilité!, surpassed the 5% eligibility threshold with 6.75%, and the historic Russian-speaking Harmony formation, formerly powerful, is outside of parliament, as is the Latvian Union of Russians (pro-Kremlin).
The Union des Verts et Paysans (centre and social democrat) comes second with 12.66%, followed by the United List (Greens and regional parties, centrists, 10.98%), the National Alliance (centre right, 9.31% ) and stability! , (populist tendency, 6.75%). Another populist party, Latvia first, the Progressives (Social Democratic Left) and Development/FOR should also introduce some MPs into the 100-seat unicameral parliament.
The poll results increase Krisjanis Karins’ chances of being formally tasked by President Egils Levits with forming the next government when the new parliament begins its work in the Baltic country of 1.8 million people, member of the EU and NATO, in early November picks up.
Joint program and coalition
Krisjanis Karins told LETA agency that President Levits invited the representatives of the parties entering parliament to a meeting on Monday 3 October. Then coalition talks will first deal with a joint program and then with the composition of the coalition with the distribution of ministerial departments. Without waiting for the final official results to be announced, he gave some indications of his intentions.
“New Unity will not enter into a coalition with parties seeking political orientation in Russia, nor will we cooperate with the Union of Greens and Peasants. Other options are open,” he told public television LTV1. Previously, he was of the opinion that a possible participation of the Greens and Peasants in his coalition was only possible if this party breaks with its ally, the oligarch and mayor of Ventspils, Aivars Lembergs, and declares that it is impossible for him to join a person who has opposed cooperation with NATO and is accused of serious crimes.
Referring to the Russian threat, Krisjanis Karins told AFP: “Neither I, nor my government, nor my country are reacting out of fear. (…) We will continue to invest in our own defense as a NATO member state,” he added.
decline in harmony
The results also confirmed the demise of the Harmonie social democratic party, which is close to the Russian-speaking minority (30% of the population). After a decade of regularly winning general elections without ever finding an ally to govern and garnering almost 20% of the vote in 2018, Harmonie has since experienced a gradual decline, accentuated by cases of corruption that saw it lose the City Hall of Riga. Former leader of Harmony and former mayor of Riga, Nils Ushakovs, now member of the European Parliament, explained the bad result of his education with his condemnation of the Russian aggression in Ukraine.
“Harmonie had to choose between acting responsibly or playing populist with national security and state interests,” he told LETA news agency. “Some of our voters stayed at home, others went to various new parties representing a different geopolitical orientation.” This situation had divided the Russian-speaking electorate. For political scientist Marcis Krastins, “the Russians who invaded Ukraine helped Krisjanis Karins because people gather around the flag at times like this,” he told AFP before the vote.