Latvians elect new parliament on Saturday

Latvia’s general elections on 5 October focus on corruption rather than EU and NATO accession which are taken for granted by voters.

The conservative People’s Party of Andris Skele, which is part of the three-party ruling coalition, is leading the polls with 14.9 per cent support. The liberal New Era Party, led by the former central bank chief Einars Repse, is second with 13.6 per cent support. Analysts expect a centre-right coalition, led by either Skele or Repse, to win the vote and form a new government. However, corruption allegations have split the right-wing parties and might make it hard for them to work together.

Prime Minister Andris Berzins’ Latvia’s Way has lost support since last election in 1998 and might not be elected into parliament. Only one leftist party, For Human Rights in a United Latvia, is likely to get into parliament.

EU and NATO accession is low on the election agenda as there is near unanimity on plans to westernize the country. However, Latvians will have to deal with some thorny issues to satisfy EU and NATO criteria, such as the inclusion of the Russian minority and the question of about 500,000 people without Latvian citizenship. Post-independence laws denied Russians the right to citizenship. Latvia liberalised the law under EU and NATO pressure, but integration has been slow.

 

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