Latvians started voting on Saturday (October 1st) to renew their parliament, in the shadow of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and were preparing, according to analysts, to keep the centrist Prime Minister, Arturs Krisjanis Karins, at the head of the government. This result seems likely due to the weakening of the populists, the conservatives and the social-democratic Harmony party (close to the Russian-speaking minority), while Mr Karins’ pro-Western party Unity leads the polls with approximately 13% of voting intentions.
Two days before the election, President Egils Levits had called on the citizens of this Baltic country, a member of the European Union and NATO, to go to the polls, while warning them against pro-Kremlin parties close of the large Russian-speaking minority, who “hesitated to state clearly who is the aggressor and who is the victim at the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine”.
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“It is very likely that Karins will win the nomination from President Egils Levits to form his second cabinet, but the success of this attempt will depend on how many smaller parties cross the 5% eligibility threshold and whether they agree to support Karins. “, explains to Agence France-Presse (AFP) the political scientist Marcis Krastins. “The Russians invading Ukraine help Karins because at such times people tend to gather around the flag,” he adds.
The conflict in Ukraine, the aspiration for energy independence from Russia, inflation and expensive energy are pushing this country of 1.8 million people to bet on proven leaders .
Solidarity with Ukraine
Concerned by Russian aggressiveness, like the Poles and their Baltic neighbours, Lithuanians and Estonians, the majority of Latvians approve of the priorities announced by the outgoing government: increase in the defense budget, solidarity with Ukraine and improvement of energy security .
Supported by Russian speakers – around 30% of the population – the Harmony party, which regularly came out on top in the legislative elections for a decade without ever finding an ally to govern, and having come close to 20% of the vote in 2018, has since experienced a fall. gradual, accentuated by cases of corruption, which made him lose the town hall of Riga. He is only credited with 5.1% of voting intentions in a poll published this month, barely above the eligibility threshold.
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The Russian-speaking electorate has partly turned to two new parties, the Russian Union of Latvia and Stability, which are, one openly pro-Kremlin, the other populist, pro-Russia, although less radical . In total, nineteen lists of political parties or their alliances presented 1,829 candidates for the hundred seats in the Riga Parliament.
According to a recent survey by the private institute SKDS, Mr. Karins’ Unity party is in the lead with 13.3% of voting intentions. It is followed by the Union of Peasants and Greens (7.8%, centre-right), currently in opposition, and the National Alliance (7.3%, centre-right), one of the five parties of the ruling coalition. Polling stations that opened at 7 a.m. (6 a.m. French time) must close at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. French time).
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