RIGA (Reuters) – Latvia’s ruling centre right has won a clear majority in its general election, results showed on Sunday, after taking a hard line over the actions of Russia, its neighbour and former ruler, in Ukraine.
Victory for the centre right in the Baltic state, which takes over the presidency of the EU at the start of next year, will bring a sigh of relief from many worried the pro-Russian Concord party might gain power and give Russian president Vladimir Putin a friendly voice in the European Union.
Together the Unity party, the Nationalist Alliance and the Union of Greens and Farmers, which have pushed for deeper political integration within Europe and more support from NATO to counter neighbour Russia, had won around 58 per cent support with 98 per cent of votes counted.
The Concord party, heavily supported by the ethnic Russians which make up almost 21 per cent of voters, was the biggest single party with 23.3 per cent, according to figures from the electoral commission.
“Putting the current votes for the coalition in the preliminary results together, the coalition has convincingly acquired a majority,” Latvia’s president Andris Berzins, said on TV on Sunday.
Berzins said he will sound out all the parties in a week’s time and, based on those discussions, will name a new prime minister.
The Unity party, the Nationalist Alliance and the Union of Greens and Farmers fought the election as separate parties but said they would continue to govern together if they got enough support in the election.
“Taking into account the number of mandates, the logic would be that the previous coalition … would together agree on who creates this government, who leads it and what are the ares of responsibility,” Artis Kampars, Unity party secretary general said.
“We are ready to continue this work.”
He said his party, the biggest in the coalition, wanted current prime minister, Laimdota Straujuma, to continue in her job.
Concord voters come mainly from the ethnic Russians who make up about a quarter of Latvia’s population of some two million.
The party has called for Russian to become Latvia’s second official language and did not back a recent parliamentary resolution supporting Ukraine against “Russian aggression”.
The former Soviet republic is a member of both NATO and the European Union and has backed EU economic sanctions imposed against Moscow over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and its support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
As prime minister Straujuma has boosted defence spending and joined Baltic neighbours Estonia and Lithuania in pressing for a bigger NATO presence in the region.