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Latvians vote to elect new parliament

Latvians vote to elect new parliament”

Latvians voted in a parliamentary election Saturday in which a party catering to the Baltic nation's large ethnic Russian minority is expected to win the most support but have trouble forming a coalition government.

More than 1,400 candidates from 16 parties are vying for seats in the country's 100-seat Saeima assembly.

Latvia's ethnic Russian minority makes up about a quarter of the country's 1.9 million population and the pro-Kremlin Harmony party, which was formerly allied with Putin's United Russia party, is popular with them.

KPV LV followed with 14.06 percent and the New Conservative Party with 13.6 percent voter support.

The new parliament will determine the makeup of the next government coalition which will replace the outgoing tripartite center-right coalition consisting of the Greens and Farmers Union, the Unity and the National Alliance.

Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Latvia is now a member of the eurozone and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, having joined the military alliance in 2004.

Voter turnout was 54.6 per cent according to preliminary data, the lowest since Latvia regained independence in 1991, the Baltic News Service reported.

For Development/For, a new political alliance formed by several parliament members who left the center-right Unity party a year ago, received 12 percent of all votes, leaving the National Alliance in fifth place with 11 percent, down from 16.61 percent in the previous general election. For example a coalition containing the New Conservatives, National Alliance, For Development/For! and the Greens and Farmers Union would hold 53 seats.

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The party is led by radio host Artuss Kaimiņš, a political outsider who has styled himself in the mold of U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a report by the New York Times.

Until recently, Harmony was a sister party of Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, and supports ending ongoing European Union sanctions on Latvia.

Observers say it is unlikely that Harmony, led by Nils Usakovs, who has been mayor of Riga, the capital, since 2009, would team up with Kucinskis' party in a coalition because of substantial policy differences.

In the past, parties have formed pacts to keep Harmony out of government.

Harmony will get 24 seats and remain the biggest bloc.

"KPV LV can work with all, we have no red line for another political force", said Mr. Gobzems during a political debate on channel TV24.

Final results of the election are expected on Sunday and coalition talks could take several weeks.



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