World

Party catering to Russian minority comes 1st in Latvian vote

Party catering to Russian minority comes 1st in Latvian vote

But it only ended its official co-operation agreement with Mr Putin's United Russia Party previous year, raising concerns in the West that its transformation is only skin deep.

With Russian speakers making up a quarter of the population, Harmony looks to remain the biggest party, according to the polls, followed by the Union of Greens and Farmers and KPV LV.

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

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

But with three hours to go, turnout was low at 39.06 percent, according to the election website.

More than 1,000 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops are based in the Baltic country and even the potential of a minor shift in allegiance in Latvia has set alarm bills ringing in Brussels and Washington.

After casting his ballot, President Raimonds Vejonis called on fellow Latvians to come to the polls, pointing to the Brexit vote as an example of what might happen if they didn't.




"No coalition combination is possible without Harmony that would appear able and stable", party leader and Riga Mayor Nils Ushakovs said.

KPV LV, a party founded by Artuss Kaimins, a parliament member and former actor, won 14.1 percent of the votes in the election.

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

Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Latvia is now a member of the eurozone and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, having joined the military alliance in 2004. "This is where the populism finds its niche", says the political scientist Filips Rajevskis.

His centrist Union of Greens and Farmers came in sixth place with only 9.9 per cent support, while the government's junior partners - the conservative National Alliance and the liberal New Unity - were fifth and seventh with 11 per cent and 6.7 per cent of the vote.

Voters in Latvia, which is a member of the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, chose from more than 1,400 candidates and 16 parties to fill the country's 100-seat parliament, or Saeima. The party could win at least 15 seats.

Dissatisfaction with Latvian politicians, widely seen as corrupt and inefficient, has seen the parties in Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis' coalition lose voters to KPV LV, a party that has promised a fresh and more efficient government. Polling stations open on Saturday from 0500 GMT to 1700 GMT, with exit polls soon after and results expected early Sunday.


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