October 2018 Latvian Elections: Voting Information

The next Latvian national election will be on October 6th, 2018. Polling stations will be set up in Latvia and also in Latvian centres throughout the world.

Latvia is a democratic country, each citizen has the right to vote in the elections. In contrast to countries with separate parliamentary and presidential elections, Latvia has only one national election, which determines the course of government for the next four years. The Latvian national election decides which candidates and parties will form the next government (Saeima). The elected Saeima chooses the President.

The Latvian voting system is unique and the list of candidates and parties long. It is very important to vote, as the overseas Latvian votes form a substantial part of the electorate. In Latvia, where voting is not compulsory, each vote makes can make a big difference!

There are 100 seats in the Saeima and 5 electoral regions, each region has a number of seats proportional to the population of that region. The regions are Latgale, Kurzeme, Vidzeme, Zemgale and Riga. Changes in population distribution result in a redistribution of the seats for each electoral region. For the upcoming election, the numbers are: Latgale (14), Kurzeme (12), Vidzeme (25), Zemgale (14), Riga (35). Since the previous elections, the first three regions have each lost one seat while Riga has gained 3. This change can be explained by the fact that the votes of Latvians living overseas are included in the Riga electorate and there has been a wave of economic emigration over the past four years. It has been calculated that overseas Latvians have the potential to decide 8 of the 100 seats. This can make a critical contribution to the formation and tone of the next government of Latvia.

The voting system is based on party preferences. There is a separate ballot paper for each party. Each voter is given a voting envelope and multiple ballot papers, one for each of the participating parties. The voter chooses one of the ballot papers, which is then put in the envelope and into the ballot box. The remaining ballot papers are discarded. Before placing the chosen ballot paper into the envelope & ballot box, the voter can mark it to indicate preferences amongst the listed candidates, this will influence whether a specific candidate on the party preference sheet actually winds up with a seat in the Saeima. A plus sign next to the candidate’s name indicates a positive shift for that candidate, a line through the candidate’s name moves that candidate down the list. The ones at the top of the list get into the Saeima.

Political Parties

There are many small political parties in Latvia. To be included in the election, a party must have at least 500 members and have been formed 1 year before the date of the election. To get into the Saeima, a political party has to poll at least 5% of the vote. To increase the chances of a small party’s candidates gaining seats in the Saeima, they often combine with another small party (or parties). When this happens, and a combined party is formed, it is useful to know the policies and actions of its constituent parties, before making a decision. The line-up of candidates for the election will be finalised in late July.

Here follows a brief outline of the major parties.

It is most likely that the major players in the next Latvian election will be three parties which already have a track record. These are: the social democrat “Saskaņa”, “Zaļo un Zemnieku Savienība” [ZZS] (Greens and Farmers Union) and “Nacionālā Apvienība” (National Union).

“Saskaņa” has held the largest number of seats in the Saeima since 2010, but has not been part of the government. The main support base of “Saskaņa” is the Russian-speaking population of Latvia, but it also gains votes from ethnic Latvians. “Saskaņa” is ideologically different to all the other parties in that it is against Latvian being the official language of Latvia, it has a pro-Soviet stance on the Soviet occupation of Latvia and has pro-Russian geo-political leanings. Due to these basic ideological differences, it is highly unlikely that “Saskaņa” would be able to form an alliance with any of the other parties, so it is most likely they will again be in the opposition in the 13th Saeima.

Zaļo un Zemnieku Savienība (ZZS) is currently the leading party in the Latvian government. It has its roots in regional areas outside Riga and many of its candidates are local government politicians. This party does not have a specific ideological base, but relies on the post-Soviet longing for a “good, honest manager” and also has the capacity to attract popular candidates. As the leading political party in the current government, it has been responsible for initiating the recent taxation and health care reforms. Although some of its members flirt with anti-Western and anti-American rhetoric, it is unlikely that it would form a coalition with “Saskaņa”.

The support base for Nacionālā Apvienība is those for whom the Latvian-Russian relationship is of utmost importance. NA boasts a string of popular politicians and its supporters seem unconcerned at the increasing number of allegations of corruption levelled at their representatives.

“Vienotība” gained second place in the previous election, but has now dropped to 3-4% in the ratings, so could possibly be completely out of the next government. This ratings drop can be explained by the party’s inability to overcome its internal differences. It has lost a swathe of politicians, but has retained a number of experienced and popular candidates who bring with them a solid support base. The policies of “Vienotība” are European, centric and technocratic. There is no guarantee that they will have enough support to gain seats in the next Saeima.

“Jaunā Konservatīvā partija” has much in common with “Vienotība”. Its current focus is anti-corruption, which it is pursuing effectively. JKP is not a new party, but has been re-vitalised by fresh and energetic candidates, including human rights workers. Despite their energy and excellent communications skills, they lack political experience.

“Attīstībai/Par” is a new party, hoping to attract “Vienotības” liberal electorate. It is led by competent politicians, with experience in government. It is supported predominantly by young, educated, European-oriented voters. The weaknesses of this party is that some of its politicians are tainted by previous public dealings and that Western left-leaning policies are not widely popular in Latvia.

KPV.LV is basically a one-man party, led by Artuss Kaimiņš. He has based his political career on pointing out the failings of the existing elite and system, but is yet to provide alternative policies to deal with these failings.

Latvijas Reģionu apvienība (Latvian Regional Union) is an independent ZZS look-alike, which has also attracted some interesting candidates.

Latvijas Krievu savienība (Latvian Russian Union) is an openly pro-Moscow party, which attracts the radical pro-Russian sector of the electorate. This party sees “Saskaņa” as being too Western and conformist.

From information compiled by Ivars Ījabs, an independent political analyst commissioned by PBLA.

Art-i-Shock trio debut with collection of contemporary chamber music

The Latvian chamber music trio Art-i-Shock has now been performing for seven years, and with their somewhat uncommon lineup (piano, cello, and percussion), not to mention eagerness to perform new and experimental works, have inspired many Latvian composers to compose especially for them. The trio gathered together and recorded some of their favorite compositions and, in 2017, released their debut album, simply entitled Contemporary Chamber Music from Latvia, which was released by the Latvian national record label Skani.

Art-i-Shock, made up of cellist Guna Šnē, Elīna Endzele on percussion and pianist Agnese Egliņa, formed in 2011, and have since become one of the premiere performers and interpreters of not just modern music, but they also arrange music from throughout history.

The album, a collection of seven chamber music works of a wide variety and styles, reveals the many facets and diversity of modern Latvian academic music, from melodic works to radical experimentations. The composers represented are of varied generations and in varied styles, and all the works are adeptly and expertly performed by the trio.

It is immediately clear from the first few seconds of the album that this will not be an ordinary album of music. Endzele’s drums introduce the first composition, ‘Voltāža’ (Voltage) by Platons Buravickis, which are then joined by harsh cello sounds and bursts of piano. As per the composer the work is ‘a message about the pressure that acts upon a person’. Indeed, the work is full of tension, and the ensemble maintains this energy throughout the work, particularly in Egliņa’s tumbling piano phrases.

After that anxious beginning, there is a small respite in composer Georgs Pelēcis’ ‘Pieneņu lauks’ (Field of Dandelions), a more melodic work where Šnē’s cello and Endzele’s vibraphone, and, later in the work, Egliņa’s piano, take turns in the forefront to provide a musical flowery landscape.

Crashes and sudden bursts of sound are an integral part of composer Linda Leimane’s ‘Silhouettes. Behaviors’, a particularly challenging work for both the performers and listeners. As per the composer, the goal was to create ‘something alive, organic and plastic’, and with these various sounds the Trio creates an engrossing sonic journey.

Perhaps the most ambitious work on the record is composer Kristaps Pētersons’ ‘Z.I.E.M.A.’ (or – Zigzagging Images and the Elements of the Melancholic Actuality), where the trio are joined by DJ Monsta on scratch and the composer himself on double bass. This is a particularly dense and complex work, with many sound effects and musical themes, and it is most helpful that the CD booklet includes a minute by minute breakdown of the compositions, with sections like ‘Leaving Gas Station Scene. Night’ and ‘Killing Scene. Late Morning’. As this is more of a theatrical work, Art-i-Shock set the stage with their evocative performances, while ghostly voices quote Emily Brontë, Shakespeare, and Wilhelm Müller.

The CD also contains performances of compositions by Andris Vecumnieks, Rihards Dubra, and Zigmārs Liepiņš.

Their work has not gone unnoticed; it is not particularly surprising that this CD was awarded the Zelta mikrofons award for best classical music album in 2017. The trio continues to work with many Latvian composers and premiere new works.

The CD booklet is full of extensive notes on the group and the compositions in both Latvian and English. These notes are particularly helpful with understanding the compositions and their meanings, and one gets a sense that the composers find it both an honor and a challenge to compose for Art-i-Shock.

Contemporary Chamber Music from Latvia provides for conclusive documentation of the talents and abilities of the trio Art-i-Shock. Certainly, many of the works on the record are very modern and make for challenging listening, as they are often discordant and non-melodic, but still serve to create intricate musical paintings. The releases by the Skani label continues to reveal the many varied aspects of modern Latvian academic music, and Art-i-Shock are one of the most exemplary and innovative Latvian chamber music ensembles.

For further information, please visit the Art-i-Shock website and the Skani music label website.


Contemporary Chamber Music from Latvia


Skani, SKANI057, 2017

Track listing:

    1. Platons Buravickis • Voltāža
    2. Georgs Pelēcis • Pieneņu lauks
    3. Andris Vecumnieks • Valse Art-i-Shock
    4. Linda Leimane • Silhouettes. Behaviours
    5. Rihards Dubra • Rudens kaislības
    6. Kristaps Pētersons • Z.I.E.M.A. – Zigzagging Images and the Elements of the Melancholic Actuality
    7. Zigmars Liepiņš • Ķiršu lietus

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area who lives in Rīga, Latvia. When not working in the information technology field, he sings in the Latvian Academy of Culture mixed choir Sõla, does occasional translation work, and has been known to sing and play guitar at the Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs in Old Rīga. Kaljo began listening to Latvian music as soon as he was able to put a record on a record player, and still has old Bellacord 78 rpm records lying around somewhere.

Koris “Atbalss” no Baškortostānas piedalās Dziesmu svētkos Latvijā

Vai tādēļ nedziedāju,
Kad man grūti jāstrādā?
Rokas, kājas piekusušas,
Mēle mana nepiekusa.

Šķiet, šie vārdi visprecīzāk stāsta par “Atbalss” ceļu uz Latviju un Dziesmu svētkiem. Idejas aizmetnis par to, ka bērniem jāpiedalās simtgades Dziesmu svētkos radās jau pirms gada. Ar sirdi jūti, ka jābrauc, ar prātu saproti, ka viegli nebūs. Bet sirds bieži vien izrādās stiprāka par veselo saprātu. Jābrauc!

“Atbalsij” paveicās ar to, ka Latvijas Republikas Ārlietu ministrija atbalstīja Dziesmu svētku pieteikuma projektu, līdz ar to nebija jādomā par ceļa izdevumiem. Atlika tikai nokārtot dokumentus, t.i., ceļošanas pasi, vīzu un vecāku atļauju par bērna izceļošanu ārpus Krievijas. Latvijas Republikas vēstniecība Krievijā vīzu uz Latviju skolēniem izsniedza bez maksas.

“Atbalss” ceļojums uz Latviju sākās ar Latvijas vēstniecības Krievijā apmeklēšanu un tikšanos ar Latvijas vēstnieku Krievijā Māri Riekstiņu. No Ufas līdz Rīgai skolēnus “pavadīja” režisors Renārs Vimba, kurš vāca materiālu īsfilmai par to, kā “Atbalss” gatavojās Dziesmu svētkiem. Latvijā skolēni lielākoties uzturējās Liepas pagastā. Bērni dzīvoja viesģimēnēs. Nedēļas laikā viņiem bija iespēja ceļot pa Latviju. Par to liels paldies jāsaka Liepas skolas skolotājai Inesei Lācei, kura Baškīrijas bērnu uzņemšanu organizēja jau otro reizi.

“Atbalss” koncerts Liepā pulcēja kopā lielu daļu to latviešu, kas savulaik no Baškortostānas pārcēlās uz Latviju. Pēdējo gadu laikā no Baškīrijas aizbraukušie latvieši ir atbalstījuši skolēnus, kas Baškortostānā apgūst latviešu valodu, gada beigās piešķirot vienreizējo stipendiju uzcītīgākajiem latviešu valodas apguvējiem. Šis brauciens nebūtu iespējams bez skolēnu vecāku atbalsta un vēlēšanās dot saviem bērniem iespēju apmeklēt Latviju. Diemžēl ne visi vecāki uzskatīja par vajadzīgu savu bērnu palaist uz Latviju vai uzskatīja, ka izbraukt ārpus Krievijas, piedalīties Latvijas simtgades svētkos ir pietiekams iemesls, lai papūlētos noformēt ceļošanai nepieciešamos dokumentus.

Dziesmu svētki ir pagājuši, “Atbalss” Latvijā ir pavadījusi piesātinātu, notikumiem un iespaidiem bagātu nedēļu. Šī nedēļa nebūtu iespējama bez Latvijas vēstniecības Krievijā, Liepas pagasta un Priekuļu novada pašvaldības, Liepas pamatskolas atbalsta. Bērni noguruši, bet laimīgi devās mājās, un man gribas ticēt, ka šī nebūs vienīgā reize, kad viņi apciemos Latviju, savu senču zemi.

Latviešu valodas un kultūras skolotāja darbību Baškortostānas Maksima Gorkija ciemā finansē Latviešu valodas aģentūra no valsts budžeta. 2018. gadā latviešu valodu skolotājas Ilonas Saverasas vadībā apgūst 19 skolēnu, bet folkloras ansamblī “Atbalss” aktīvi darbojas 16 bērnu.

Ilona Saverasa ir skolotāja, kas māca latviešu valodu un kultūru Sibīrijā.