Latvia wins election and becomes prime minister, remains critical of Russia

RIGA, Oct 2 (Reuters) – Latvian Prime Minister Kriszjanis Karins’ center-right New Unity Party won Saturday’s election, according to provisional results, with 19% of the vote putting him in position to lead another coalition government.

The results – with 96% of counties counted – mean Latvia should be a leading voice, along with its Baltic neighbors Lithuania and Estonia, in pushing the EU to take a decisive stance against Russia.

Following the election, Karin’s party was once again the party with the most support. Members of the current coalition were on track to win 42 seats in the 100-seat parliament, so Karens would need to form additional allies to become prime minister.

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Nine parties could win enough votes to win seats in parliament.

After a campaign dominated by security concerns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Karins told Reuters he would work to build a coalition of like-minded parties.

“I am confident that we will be able to find such a solution,” he said early Sunday.

“The first thing on everyone’s mind is how we all get through the winter, not only in Latvia, but across the EU, and we all stand united behind Ukraine and don’t give up on our difficulties.”

The first Latvian head of government to serve a full four-year term, Karins, 57, a dual American and Latvian citizen, benefited from Moscow’s policy of restricting the entry of Russian citizens traveling from Russia and Belarus. .

“I don’t see the possibility that any government in Latvia will stop supporting Ukraine – this is not the view of a small group of politicians, this is the view of our society,” Karins said.

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But his victory could widen the divide between the country’s Latvian majority and the Russian-speaking minority over their place in society.

Support for pro-Russian parties declines

Poll results show declining support for popular parties among Latvia’s Russian-speaking minority, which makes up about a quarter of the country’s 1.9 million population.

The left-wing Harmony Party saw its support fall to 5% after winning the majority of the vote in the 2018 election, with observers pointing to alienation among ethnic Latvian voters and disillusionment among Russian-speakers with the party leadership’s criticism of the Kremlin over Ukraine. .

“Russian voters are migrating across national borders and they are voting for Latvian (parties). This is positive”, said Phillips Rajewskis, analyst.

The opposition Greens and Farmers Union, a coalition of closely-knit conservative groups around Ventspils’ longtime mayor Ivers Lembergs, who was put on the US sanctions list for corruption in 2019, came in second with 13%.

On 100,000 euro bail since February when he appealed the 2021 corruption conviction, Lembergs, 69, said the deployment of NATO troops in Latvia in 2014 was an invasion.

However, party leader Armands Krauze told Reuters earlier on Sunday that his party would support Karen’s tough stance against Russia, saying “we think our current foreign policy is very correct”.

Krause said Lemberg’s words were exaggerated by opponents.

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(Reporting by Andreas Sydas and Janice Lysons) By Kirsten Donovan and Frances Kerry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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