Russian-minority party 'wins' Latvia election


Artuss KaimiņsREUTERS

Latvia's pro-European parties looked to have done well in an election on Saturday, but the pro-Russian Harmony party was set to be the biggest single group in parliament, according to an exit poll by state broadcaster LTV.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation now has more than 1,000 troops deployed in the Baltic country of 2 million and even the potential of a minor shift in allegiance in Latvia will worry both Brussels and Washington.

Members of the minority account for about 25 percent of Latvia's 2 million people, a legacy of almost 50 years of Soviet occupation that ended in 1991.

Latvians voted Saturday in a general election expected to yield a ruling coalition of pro-Kremlin and populist parties and tarnished by a hacker attack on a popular social network.

But this time around that could change. There is a risk that the power there may come the Pro-Russian party "Consent".

But it was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II, and then by the Soviet Union for almost half a century until 1991.

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

But polls suggest that voters are abandoning the ruling coalition.

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"The messages 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 there's the possibility of a Russia-oriented coalition after the election".

The result means a confirmation of the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member's role as a bulwark against Russian Federation in the increasingly hostile relationship between the West and President Vladimir Putin. The National Alliance would have thirteen and the Unit, renamed the New Unit, could not cross the eligibility threshold of 5%. Also, the right-wing party "New Unity" passed into the parliament with the result of 6.6%.

This potential partner, the party KPV LV, led by former actor Artuss Kaimins, would come second according to some polls that the credit of a dozen seats.

"KPV LV is a "shadow branch" of Harmony, which is not alone in its power quest any more", said political analyst Marcis Bendiks.

But dissatisfaction with Latvian politicians, widely seen as corrupt and inefficient, has seen the government parties lose voters to KPV LV, a populist party that has promised a fresh and more efficient government.

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

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