Latvian premier's center-right party wins national election

Latvia Election

HELSINKI (AP) — Latvia's ruling center-right party won the most votes in the country's general election, centrist parties were the runners-up and pro-Moscow parties crashed in a vote that was shaped by Russia’s war in Ukraine, according to results published Sunday.

With over 99% of the votes counted, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins’ New Unity party had captured 19% support, while the opposition Greens and Farmers Union was second with 12.5% and the new centrist electoral alliance United List — made up of several regional parties — was third with 10.9%.

Only eight parties or electoral alliances passed the 5% barrier and secured representation at the 100-seat Saeima legislature. The center-right National Alliance and the centrist Development/For!, which are both members in Karins' current minority coalition government, are among them.

None of the parties catering to Latvia’s ethnic Russian minority, which makes up more than 25% of the country’s 1.9 million people, managed to secure a seat in Parliament.

Karins, a 57-year-old dual Latvian-U.S. citizen born in Wilmington, Delaware, told media outlets earlier that it would be easiest to continue with the same coalition government if his party won.

Valdis Dombrovskis, the executive vice president of the European Commission and a former Latvian prime minister, said the Baltic country was currently "facing a very complicated geopolitical situation in a context of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.”

Latvia, which borders Russia, joined the European Union and NATO in 2004.

“The victory of the prime minister’s party, New Unity, I think, means that people voted for experienced political force with a clear Euro-Atlantic course, which can deal and lead a country in this complicated situation,” Dombrovskis told New Unity supporters in the capital, Riga.

Saturday's election was a blow particularly for Harmony, a Moscow-friendly party that traditionally served as an umbrella for most of Latvia’s Russian-speaking voters, including Belarusians and Ukrainians.

Harmony received a mere 4.8% of votes in comparison to the 2018 election, when it garnered almost 20% of the vote, the most of any single party, but was excluded by other parties from entering the government.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 had a substantial effect on voter attitudes, observers say, and resulted in a deep division between Russian-speakers opposing the war and those supporting it. Latvia's economic situation, including soaring energy prices, was the main election issue.

Initial voter turnout was 59.4%, the Central Election Committee said, higher than the 2018 election.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine