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Russia-Friendly Party, Populists Top Latvian Elections

Updated

Election posters in Riga are draped in Riga as Latvians went to the polls on October 6.

A Russia-friendly party has won the most votes in Latvia’s parliamentary elections, ahead of two populist parties.

The Harmony party, which gets much of its support from the Baltic country's Russian-speaking minority, took 19.9 percent of the votes in the October 6 elections, final results showed.

Election authorities reported on October 7 that two populist parties seen as potential Harmony partners, KPV LV and the New Conservative Party, polled 14.1 percent and 13.6 percent, respectively.

The liberal pro-EU and pro-NATO Development/For! party finished fourth with 12 percent, beating the three parties from the current center-right governing coalition of Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis, which won nearly 28 percent between them

Turnout was 54.6 percent of the 1.9 eligible voters, election officials said.

Seven parties and alliances will join the parliament, called the Saeima, and coalition talks could be long and tense.

"No coalition combination is possible without Harmony that would appear able and stable," party leader and Riga Mayor Nils Ushakovs said.

In the past, parties have refused to enter into coalition with Harmony. But many observers say they expect KPV LV and the New Conservatives to attempt to form a coalition with the Kremlin-friendly party.

"No coalition combination is possible without Harmony that would appear able and stable," Harmony Chairman and Riga Mayor Nils Ushakovs told the LETA agency.

"Otherwise, you could have a coalition of xenophobes and gay rights supporters, and such a government would stick together for two or three weeks," he added.

Latvia, a member of the European Union and NATO, shares a 270-kilometer border with Russia.

It has a sizable ethnic-Russian minority of around 25 percent, a legacy of nearly 50 years of Soviet occupation that ended in 1991, when the nation regained its independence.

Latvia's mainstream parties have kept pro-Russia politicians from power as they sought ever closer ties with the West.

At the last election, Harmony won the most seats but was excluded from power when the other parties refused to include it in any deal due to its ties with Russia.

The populist KPV LV party and its leader, Artuss Kaimins, whose popularity has soared as he railed against corrupt politicians, has sent mixed messages on whether he would also rule out such a deal.

A KPV-Harmony ruling alliance would represent "a rather radical change of Latvia's position towards the European Union and towards our security matters which, I think, is very dangerous," Prime Minister Kucinskis said.

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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