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Latvia reelects incumbent Karins

October 2, 2022

Latvian citizens have reelected Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins with communal division, energy prices and Russia's war in Ukraine on their minds.

Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krisjanis Karins reacts at "New Unity" party headquarters while addressing fellow party members
Karins party took more votes than any other Latvian party in a vote on SaturdayImage: JANIS LAIZANS/REUTERS

Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins' center-right New Unity Party emerged as the leading vote winner with 18.9% support as the state election body reported results from 95% of districts on Sunday. 

A joint exit poll conducted for the country's LETA news agency and state broadcasters.also put the centrist and environmentalist United List Party in second place with 11.5% of the vote. Meanwhile, the Greens and Farmers Union was in third with 10.9% support.

Latvians cast their votes in Saturday's general election under the shadow of the Russia-Ukraine war, divisions among the Baltic country's sizable ethnic-Russian minority, and a weak economy with particularly high energy prices.

"Russians invading Ukraine helps Karins to secure voters in Latvia because in such times people tend to rally around the flag," political expert Marcis Krastins said. 

Patriotism on the rise - The battle over national identity

This level of support, however, will not be enough to win Karins a majority government.

The 57-year-old became the head of the Latvian government in January 2019 by forming a coalition with four parties: the center-right National Alliance, the centrist Development/For!, the Conservatives and Karins' own New Unity Party. He told Latvian media outlets that it would be easiest to continue with the same coalition government if New Unity wins. 

Over 1,800 candidates belonging to 19 parties are running for office in Latvia. Only eight of these 19 parties are expected to pass through the 5% threshold required to secure a place in the 100-seat Saeima legislature.

Death knell for the opposition?

Latvia's Social Democratic Party Harmony, which usually has strong support from the Russian-speaking minorities in the country, is likely to be left out in the cold in this general election.

The Moscow-friendly party has garnered more votes than any of its peers in past elections but also failed to form a government on account of being excluded by other parties. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has weakened the party's position further. Harmony's staunch opposition to Russia's invasion isolated it from the pro-Putin voters. On the other hand, those who are against the war aligned themselves with other Latvian parties.  

Harmony is now trailing in fifth place with 5.1% support, according to a poll by Latvian public broadcaster LSM. 

People vote at a polling station during the general election on October 1, 2022 in Riga, Latvia
Latvia is likely to see another coalition government headed by the New Unity PartyImage: GINTS IVUSKANS/AFP

mk/sms (AP, AFP, dpa)