The elections that happened yesterday 2. October have ended. While there is still some counting going on in Riga the results are almost certainly clear. This elections will go down in history in many ways. First only 13 parties run for election that is pretty low for Latvia since in 20. century twenties more than 60 parties had participated in elections. Second the elections will make parliament less fragmented for the first time since most parties formed unions. Only 62% people of Latvian population voted in elections. That is second lowest score since 2006. However a surprisingly large numbers of Latvian citizens voted abroad. The emigrants in Europe, USA and Australia also casted their votes for Latvian parties.
Many saw that victors of this election will be leftist pro-Russian party Harmony Center. However this has not happened – the liberal right party union Unity have come first with 30% of votes. Harmony Center won 25% of votes thanks to the high popularity in Latgallia and Riga. Green Farmers Union have made success by gaining 19% mainly thanks for the high support in rural agricultural areas. Also thanks to their PM candidate Aivars Lembergs who is overwhelmingly popular in Courland and rest of Latvia. Lembergs himself did participated in elections but posed himself as best candidate for PM nomination. PM is nominated by President of Latvia. Union of two past victor parties For Good Latvia (PLL) have failed their expectations. Only 7,5% is stunning defeat for their leaders Ainars Slesers and Andris Skele. A positive result was for national conservative union All for Latvia!/For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK. Both parties won 7,5% of the votes. It’s mainly a success for All for Latvia! because its their first entry in parliament. However it’s not still clear how many seats will they share with their senior colleges but its a room for surprises since All for Latvia! voters are eager to push their favorites above Fatherland and Freedom candidates.
One party has left the prime political scene. Russian national party For Human Rights in United Latvia (PCTVL) collected only 1% of votes. Harmony Center have finally beaten their inner rivals by taking PCTVL voters to their side. This has happened since Russian electorate had high hopes for victory so they concentrated their votes on strongest Russian force. PCTVL still has seats in prestige EU parliament and few municipalities but their future now seems uncertain.
No other new force has not entered parliament. It’s because the so-called “small parties” had nothing new to offer and have small funds to finance the campaign. Latvian leftist union “Responsibility” failed to achieve past glory of Latvian left that dominated from 1920 to 1934. A rather interesting project was “Last Party” that offered original almost anarchistic ideas but because of their humorous campaign they achieved low popularity.
Clearly the voters of the Harmony Center will not be satisfied. Since the stunning victory in Riga municipal elections party prepared for whole state victory. The polls showed their victory for many months. When “Unity” was formed their ratings deceased but they still showed victory. However after exit polls that showed success for “Unity” first signs of surprise and resentment was seen on the faces of their leaders. It has turned out that in mainly Latvian populated regions Harmony Center had low popularity. That showed that widespread Latvian support for Harmony Center was a mere exaggeration. However the situation was saved by large support from voters in Latgallia and Riga. These two parts are densely populated by Russian speaking voters. In result they won more percent and seats than in 2006. so the result can be viewed as success for them. However a second place is never enough for victory hungry Russian voters. Russians always have trouble accepting second whether its hockey or politics. Harmony Center still has hope for coalition if “Unity” or ZZS would want to work with them. By doing however they will betray their voters who voted to prevent Harmony Center victory.
So it’s highly possible that current PM Valdis Dombrovskis will be named by the President as new PM candidate. “Unity” will form the coalition with ZZS and VL!/TB/LNNK and keep Harmony Center and PLL in opposition. They will have enough seats to do so and that what their voters want. However if ZZS leader Ainars Lembergs will have some dirty tricks on his sleeve things could change. It is also a question how many seats would both national parties VL and TB/LNNK will share. Some liberal experts fear that VL! will gain more seats than senior TB/LNNK and will put a new tone in parliamentary politics. However their main demand is not allow Harmony Center in to coalition and not to make anti-national laws. These demands can be met by both sides. If “Unity” and ZZS will not go to intimate with Harmony Center the conflicts can easily avoided.
If “Harmony Center” will stay in opposition they will be allot more comfortable when the new state budget will be arranged. They have spent time warning people from drastic austerity measures by “Unity” that will make even deeper cuts than before. If they lead the government they are almost certainly to make budget cuts for themselves. That way they will deceive their most naive supporters. Harmony Center still has a large base of supporters from Russian speaking mass but its a question how long will they wait for their promised takeover? And what will be a response of the Kremlin that pushed large funds to promote Russian victory?
For the PLL future looks grim. Both old-time winners Peoples Party and Latvian First Party joined themselves together to avoid failure to reach 5% barrier. The attempt of union was successful in terms of keeping both parties alive but expectations were more than real gains. Union used large amount of money to push large voting campaign to get voters attention. Every possible way was used from illegal to legal. Supposedly neutral debates with “experts” were held in independent television network that visibly propagandized PLL agenda. Even when official candidate debates were held in this same channel everything was done to give PLL orators better questions. The director of the television was member of PLL so it high pressure to show PLL to people. Ainars Slesers used the service of his long time friend Eriks Stendzinieks a talented commercial manager to promote his campaign. So far Stendzinieks had tremendous success in election campaigns in 2006 and in 2009. He created so-called “Positivism Campaign” a third party commercials for Peoples Party candidates. He made Slesers a “rocket” and “bulldozer” a tough family man. However when a compromising book was published on Slesers family past, Stendzinieks advised Slesers to cry in public. Stendzinieks gave a large amount of a work in this campaign but its seems that Latvian public has had enough of him and Slesers. It is also a stunning defeat for Slesers who decided to quit his vice-major office to gain PM or at least Finance Minister seat in next government. Now its likely that he will remain as simple opposition deputy a bitter failure for man who lusts for power and action. Likely its a failure for ex-president of Latvia Guntis Ulmanis who rejoined politics and gave high hopes for election. He has disgraced his good name to many who despise PLL. It’s a mystery why well-funded ex-president in senior years yearns for deputy seat for he had the highest seat of the state for 8 years. So PLL is a failed political concept and could decay if they are saved by return of nations support.
The election has proven that majority of Latvian voters want stability. They know that “Unity” had its bad moments and will have in the future, but they have made stabilization measures that saved from deep fall that started in the reign of PLL. Voters also don’t want a rapid change to the east and rise of leftist government. It’s clear that people want to continue stabilization process and don’t want to put at risk by giving to leftists and oligarchs. Also the election had shown that national factor remains strong as before because of ethnic votes for “Unity” and “Harmony Center”. Nationalism ideology is still strong in one part of the voters who elected the national conservatives.
The election turnouts have possibility to continue the way of Latvia on the right track.