Populist party set for gains in Latvian election

REUTERS

Bound in the past by an agreement with the united Russia party of Vladimir Putin, Harmony is popular in the Russian-speaking minority, which represents a quarter of the population of the country.

The result means hard weeks ahead trying to form a broad government coalition that has at least 51 seats in parliament.

"We expected such incidents during the election day", Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics told news agency LETA, adding investigations were under way.

The center-left Socialist party, commonly known as Harmony, received almost 20 percent of the vote after ballots from 575 polling stations were counted.

"Harmony was, is and will become Latvia's most important party", the party's prime ministerial candidate, Vjaceslavs Dombrovskis said on television.

Two new smaller parties running on a strong anti-establishment, anti-corruption agenda moved into the forefront of Latvia's complex political landscape. The voter turnout reached more than 54%.

Some Latvians were optimistic about the vote, including Evalds, 75.

Party (12.04%), the National Independence Movement (11.03%) and the Union of Greens and Farmers (9.96%), which now leads Latvia's ruling coalition, and the New Unity party (6.67%).

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"Voters are exhausted of hard work, which was necessary to pull Latvia out of the economic crisis", political scientist Filips Rajevskis told AFP.

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

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.

Therefore numerous coalition combinations look potentially possible.

The Baltic countries - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - have also noted with alarm a substantial increase in Russian military manoeuvrs in the region.

The ruling coalition consisting of his party, the National Alliance and the Unity party appear to have lost nearly half of its votes.

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.

"KPV LV can work with anybody, we don't have any red lines regarding any other political force", Gobzems said during a TV24 debate. Polling stations are to close at 1900 UTC and final results are expected early on Sunday.

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