Latvia's center-right ruling coalition wins vote

AP News
Posted: Oct 05, 2014 7:22 AM
Latvia's center-right ruling coalition wins vote

RIGA, Latvia (AP) — Despite gains made by pro-Russian parties, Latvia's ruling center-right coalition parties won a majority of seats in a parliamentary election dominated by security issues and the Ukraine crisis.

With 98 percent of votes counted, the opposition pro-Russian Harmony party won most votes in Saturday's election with 23 percent while the three Western-oriented government parties had 56 percent of the vote.

The provisional result means the ruling coalition will have at least 61 seats in the 100-member Parliament. Final results were expected later Sunday.

Alarmed by Russia's intervention in Ukraine, the government has advocated closer ties with the West, welcoming the buildup of NATO forces in the region. It had faced Harmony and a smaller pro-Russian party, which favored balancing the country's Western orientation with stronger links to Moscow. Almost a third of Latvia's 2 million people are Russian-speaking.

Latvian President Andris Berzins welcomed the result, but expressed disappointment at the country's lowest-ever turnout — 58 percent.

"You would think, given the geopolitical situation, you would expect it to rise. But even so, it has fallen compared to the last election," he told Latvian television LTV. "We need to understand what is the reason for this."

Berzins said he would give the parties a week to agree on a prime minister nominee to form a new government.

Harmony parliamentary leader Janis Urbanovics, whose party looked to win 30 seats in parliament, said he expected his party to be asked to form a government. He was expected to approach another left-leaning pro-Russian party, For Latvia From the Heart, which is entering parliament for the first time with seven seats.

Around 1.5 million people were eligible to vote, but some 300,000 were barred from voting. They are Russian-speakers who aren't Latvian citizens because they cannot — or won't — meet citizenship requirements, including speaking Latvian.

Parliament was to convene on Nov. 4 after a new government has been formed.