Snap poll takes place today
The snap general election caused by a referendum in July will take place today for the 11th Saeima or parliament. The last general election was on 2nd October 2010, with this one coming about as a result of former president Valdis Zatlers losing patience with parliament over their attitude to so called ‘oligarchs’ (see previous postings on the Latvia country page under News).
There will be 1,027 polling stations opening from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (124 stations stay open until 10 p.m.) local time to cater for the 1,542,700 eligible voters in the election. Thirteen political parties are standing with 1,092 candidates contesting for the 110 seats in parliament.
Latest polls suggest that the Social Democratic Party “Harmony” (SDPS) will be the largest party after the election. Currently they hold 25 seats but are ahead in the opinion polls on 21%.
The governing party of Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, Unity (V), a coalition of three parties (New Era Party, Civic Union and the Society for Other Politics) currently has 33 seats in parliament and in the latest polls was standing on 15% of the vote.
The new party, Zatlers’ Reform Party (ZRP), was founded in July by the former president and is also standing at around 15% of the vote.
Harmony is a pro-Russian party and caters for the roughly one third of the 2.2 million population who are ethnic Russians. It would be the first time they came to government if they succeed in their bid. However, they may be locked out of government by Unity and the ZRP because they refuse to recognise that Latvia was occupied by the Russians during the Second World War.
The deciding factor is likely to be the 28.6% of the voters who remained undecided in the most recent opinion poll taken by the Baltic News Service. Many of these are ethic Latvians and their vote will decide the eventual outcome.
Like Finland earlier this year, the forming of the government could take weeks as each party positions itself within a potential three or four party coalition.