Mrzekierdzej, 13 ugustu 2003 o.

Parliamentary elections in Latvia

by Latvia correspondent, Marek Pietrzyn

Today, 1.6 million Latvian voters have the opportunity to choose a new parliament. The main theme of the elections are: will the centre-left government of prime minister Osvalds Talmanis once more receive the confidence of the people in carrying out its economic reforms, or will Latvia make a switch to the right?

Recent polls incidicate, that the three parties that support Talmanis will lose their comfortable majority of 65 out of 100 deputies in the Saeima, the Latvian parliament. According to the same polls, Talmanis's own Democratic Alliance, currently represented by 31 deputies, can this time count on only 20 deputies, 25 at most, while he social-democratic LSDDP and the Latvian People's Front are bound to loose as well. However, the campaigns have been been unusually hot and hard this year, and much can change during the last few days before an election. Today's most important question for the Latvians remains: will Talmanis be able to form a new government on the basis of today's elections, be it by adding one or two smaller parties to the coalition?

Talmanis's main political opponent is the conservative Agrarian Union (ZS), led by former finance minister and current opposition leader Raivis Špons. The polls give the ZS a good chance to become the biggest party in the Saeima. Much depends, however, on the success of another party, the ultra-right People's Movement for the Kingdom (TKK). Since its foundation in 1993, the post-SNORist TKK has been a small and insignificant party, with currently only five seats in the Saeima. Two years ago, however, former junta leader Viktors Alksnis assumed the leadership of the TKK, after the ten years during which he was forbidden to exercise any political function had passed. From that moment on, much has changed in Latvia. While the economic situation grew worse and worse for the population, the government responsible for it fell from one affair into another, and all Alksnis had to do was to eloquently feed the fertile soil of nostalgia for a better past. Alksnis's star has been rising ever since, and the polls indicate that today's elections will bring TKK at 15 to 20 seats, which, by any standard, will make the TKK a major political factor. It remains unlikely though, that the TKK will take part in the next government, as neither Talmanis nor Špons would compromise themselves with a cooperation with the post-SNORists.

The final results will probably be known during the night.