The pro-Kremlin Harmony party won Latvia's general election ahead of populists, final results showed yesterday, but talks on forming a governing coalition looked thorny due to the country's fragmented political scene.
Harmony topped Saturday's vote with 19.91 percent of the vote ahead of two populist parties, KPV LV with 14.06 percent and the New Conservative Party with 13.6 percent.
"No coalition combination is possible without Harmony that would appear able and stable," Harmony chairman and Riga mayor Nils Ushakovs told the LETA agency. Harmony, popular with Latvia's ethnic Russian minority which makes up about a quarter of the country's 1.9 million population, was formerly allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party and has won the largest number of votes in the last three elections. It never entered government as it failed to attract coalition partners, but the populists suggested before the vote that they may help propel it to power this time.
Latvia's public broadcaster said on its website the results would give Harmony 24 seats out of 100 in the parliament, which is called Saeima. But together with an expected 15 seats for KPV LV, the two parties would need at least one other partner to clinch a majority. The pro-EU, pro-NATO liberal For Development/For! party came fourth in the vote with 12.04 percent, beating parties from the current center-right governing coalition including the rightwing National Alliance, which earned 11.03 percent. The center-right Greens and Farmers Union of Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis won 9.96 percent and the New Unity took 6.67 percent as the last party crossing the five-percent threshold to have seats in parliament. Latvia is a member of both the Eurozone and NATO, having joined the military alliance in 2004. The country is one of NATO's most disciplined spenders on defense, meeting the two-percent-of-GDP goal wished by the Alliance.