Russia-Leaning Party Expected to Place First in Latvia Elections

Nils Usakovs Mayor of Riga Latvia's capital and a leader of the Harmony Center party seen during an interview with the Associated Press in Riga Latvia. A political party catering to the ethnic Russian

Russia-Leaning Party Expected to Place First in Latvia Elections

Dissatisfied Latvians rejected the right-of-centre ruling coalition in Saturday's (6 October) parliamentary election but suspicion of the left-leaning pro-Russia party makes it likely the next government will be another formation of ethnic Latvian parties to the right.

Voters in Latvia, a member of the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, chose Saturday from more than 1,400 candidates and 16 parties to fill the country's 100-seat parliament.

The rise of the populist KPV LV party has spooked the West because its leader Artuss Kaimins, whose popularity soared as he railed against political corruption, has refused to rule out an alliance with the pro-Russian Harmony party which has been branded a potential EU "Trojan Horse".

Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis's governing coalition comprising the Union of Greens and Farmers, the National Alliance and the Unity party only won about 27%.

Latvia, a nation of 2 million that borders Russia, has a sizable ethnic-Russian minority of around 25 per cent - more if you count other Russian-speakers such as Belarussians and Ukrainians. There is a risk that the power there may come the Pro-Russian party "Consent".

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. For example a coalition containing the New Conservatives, National Alliance, For Development/For! and the Greens and Farmers Union would hold 53 seats.

Before the election, some Latvians feared a strong result for Harmony and KPV could lead to them forming a government and bringing the Latvia's foreign policy closer to Putin's Russian Federation.

Mainstream parties lost out to new anti-establishment parties in elections on Saturday in Latvia.

Harmony will get 24 seats and remain the biggest bloc. The main opponents of "Consent" - centrist party KPV - scored 14.1%, and their voices right NPC gave 13.6% of the electorate.

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

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

"KPV LV can work with anybody".

Polling stations close at 1700 GMT with a preliminary official result expected around 0100 GMT Sunday morning.

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