Pro-Russian party wins Latvia election but new government could be long in the making

Pro-Russian party wins Latvia election but new government could be long in the making
Pro-Russian Harmony, led by Nils Usakovs (pictured) has recently revamped itself with a social-democratic gloss.
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw October 8, 2018

The pro-Russia centre-left Harmony party won the Latvian general election on October 6, scooping 19.8% of the vote and 23 seats in the 100-seat parliament. But it might end up isolated from power once again.

Harmony’s apparent pro-Russia stance is a political liability in Latvia, once a part of the Soviet Union and currently an enthusiastic member of the EU and Nato. 

The party, which has recently revamped itself with a social-democratic gloss, won the most votes in the three previous elections yet it was invariably pushed aside by a coalition government of other parties, a scenario that appears likely following last weekend’s vote. 

However, the fragmentation of the votes cast for other parties means coalition negotiations to ensure Harmony is marginalised once again could be difficult and prolonged. 

The populist KPV and the New Conservative Party (JKP) respectively won 14.3% and 13.6% of the vote and will have 16 seats in the parliament each. The National Alliance and liberal For Development/For! Will have 13 MPs each after winning 12% and 11% of the votes, respectively.

The Greens and Farmers Union won 9.9% of the votes and will have 11 MPs while the New Unity party will have eight seats after winning 6.7% of the electorate. 

Nine other parties partaking in the election did not manage to win the minimum of 5% of the vote needed to secure a parliamentary representation.

A coalition securing at least 51 seats in the parliament is possible if the JKP, the National Alliance, liberals, and the Greens and Farmers Union manage to strike a government agreement in the coming weeks.

The populists from KPV were seen as a possible coalition partner to Harmony but would still need a minimum of 12 seats to secure majority. It is not clear at the moment if any party is ready to end Harmony’s long-standing isolation.

Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis is now expected to nominate a new prime minister. The president has given the parties two weeks to hold informal talks on potential coalition set-up before he steps in.

Vejonis said he would make sure that the new government guarantees Latvia’s current course. The new government should keep Latvia’s foreign policy unchanged, continue to strengthen national security, and maintain a balanced state budget, the president tweeted in reaction to the election results.