September 18, 2011
Although overall turnout in the Sept. 17 special parliamentary election was lower than last year, more voters participated outside of Latvia than in any election since 1993, according to Central Election Commission data.
With all but one polling station reporting, provisional results show a total of 14,085 ballots cast in 76 polling stations located in 39 countries outside Latvia. Missing were results from the polling station in Seattle in the United States.
The latest provisional results show that overall turnout in Latvia and abroad was 60.55 percent, down from the 63.1 percent turnout in the October 2010 election.
The increase of more than 10 percent in voting abroad was likely a combination of heightened interest following July’s referendum on dismissing the 10th Saeima and the fact that tourists from Latvia found themselves outside the homeland on election day.
The greatest number of ballots cast abroad in a parliamentary election was in 1993 when 18,413 votes were recorded, according to the Central Election Commission. In the next three Saeima elections, the number of votes abroad declined: 12,525 in 1995; 10,080 in 1998; and 7,350 in 2002. A slight uptick was registered in 2006 when 7,490 votes were cast.
Perhaps because more polling stations operated abroad in 2010—64 compared to 53 in 2006—the number of votes jumped to 12,778.
Just as in voting for the 10th Saeima in October 2010, the polling station set up in the Latvian Embassy in London proved the busiest in this year’s snap election. It saw 1,407 voters.
Second was Stockholm, where the 871 voters included visitors who had just arrived by ferry from Rīga. Third was Dublin with 667 voters.
In Canada, the busiest polling station was in Toronto with 602 voters. Washington, D.C., with 325 voters was the most active in the United States. In Australia, Melbourne drew the most voters with 235.
General results from all balloting in Latvia and abroad gave the center-left and pro-Russian Harmony Centre (Saskaņas Centrs) the victory, following by the centrist Zatlers’ Reform Party (Zatlera Reformu partija) and the centrist Unity (Vienotība).
Voters abroad were of a different opinion, giving most votes to Unity (31.4 percent), the Zatlers’ Reform Party (22.96 percent) and the conservative National Association (Nacionālā apvienība “Visu Latvijai!”-“Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK”, 21.54 percent). Harmony Centre got 14.5 percent of the ballots cast abroad, according to Central Election Commission data.
Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000-2012 he was editor of the website.