Jaunais laiks wins; voter turnout shrinks abroad

Latvia’s next government will be a coalition. That much is clear from provisional results from the Oct. 5 nationwide voting for a new parliament. But just which of the six parties that earned spots in the 100-seat Saeima will form the new government remains open to speculation.

Einars Repše’s reform-minded Jaunais laiks (New Era), which at one point expressed confidence that it could win a clear majority and thus avoid a coalition, won the most seats (26) in the 8th Saeima, earning 23.93 percent of the estimated 990,000 ballots cast in Latvia and abroad.

But 27 percent fewer voters cast ballots abroad this year than in the last parliamentary election in 1998. According to reports from 34 of the 35 voting sites abroad, 7,367 votes were cast in person or by mail. In 1998, a total of 10,080 voters abroad participated.

Results are still awaited from Venezuela.

According to the provisional results tabulated by Latvia’s Central Elections Commission, the heavily ethnic Russian party, Par cilvēka tiesībām vienotā Latvijā (For Human Rights in United Latvia, or PCTVL), drew 18.94 percent of all ballots, earning 24 seats in the parliament. Andris Šķēle’s Tautas partija (People’s Party) took third with 16.7 percent of ballots, earning 21 seats. At the time, results from 978 of Latvia’s 979 voting districts—including those abroad—had been tabulated.

A total of 20 parties fielded candidates in the election, but only those earning more than 5 percent of the national vote get a slice of the parliamentary pie. The other parties to clear the barrier were Latvijas Pirmā partija (The First Party of Latvia), 9.58 percent, earning 10 seats; Zaļo un zemnieku savienība (Green and Farmers’ Union), 9.47 percent, earning 12 seats; and Tēvzemei un brīvībai/LNNK (For Fatherland and Freedom), 5.39 percent, earning 7 seats. The Green and Farmers’ Union gets two seats more than the First Party because of how Saeima seats are apportioned according to voting region.

Although its popularity had been waning in recent years, it was still a surprise to some observers to see Latvijas ceļš (Latvia’s Way) drop below the 5 percent line. The party earned 4.88 percent of the national vote.

Latvia’s social democrats, who split into two parties earlier this year as a result of infighting, also won’t be warming any seats in the 8th Saeima. The Latvian Social Democratic Labour Party earned 4.02 percent of the vote, while the splinter Social Democratic Union received 1.53 percent. That suggests that if the social democrats had stayed together, they might have earned enough votes to stay above the 5 percent threshhold.

Voting results from Latvians abroad, particularly from the Americas, came in later as polls closed at 8 p.m. local time.

Voting abroad

Voting got off on a sweet note at the Latvian Ev.-Lutheran Church in Rockville, Md. It was the Three Tenors—Miervaldis Jenčs, Nauris Puntulis and Guntars Runģis—who cast the first ballots in the Washington, D.C., suburb, said Uvis Blūms, chairperson of the local election commission. The singers had performed in concert the previous evening in Washington.

Voting there and in New York progressed smoothly, but election judges may have had less work in this election compared to four years ago. Just 1,642 Latvian citizens voted in the United States, 44 percent less than four years ago, when 2,928 cast ballots in person or by mail.

In all, Blūms said, 263 voters cast ballots in person in the Rockville church. Although a final count of mail ballots was not yet known, Blūms said a total of 1,155 had been sent by the Latvian Embassy to potential voters who requested them. Meanwhile, in New York at the Permanent Mission of Latvia to the United Nations, a spokeswoman reported 281 ballots cast.

In Canada, 465 fewer voters cast ballots this year compared to 1998, a decrease of 29 percent. A total of 930 votes were cast at the Latvian Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto, making it the busiest in-person polling place abroad. Another 184 ballots were cast at the Latvian Embassy in Ottawa, including just 79 by mail.

Four years ago, a total of 1,579 ballots were cast in Canada.

An hour before closing, Irēne Sadde, Latvia’s honorary consul in Caracas, Venezuela, told Latvians Online that voting was progressing without problems. A total of 54 people cast ballots in person, but nobody voted by mail.

“The mail doesn’t work,” Sadde said of Venezuela’s postal service.

Four years earlier, 81 ballots were cast in Venezuela.

In the Argentinian city of San Miguel, 35 kilometers from Buenos Aires, a total of 43 people voted, 41 of them at the home of Honorary Consul Mirdza Restbergs de Zalts. “We had no problems,” she told Latvians Online.

Four years ago, 55 people cast ballots in Argentina, according to Central Elections Commission data.

This time, according to draft results, the largest bloc of Argentina’s votes—15 in all—went to Jaunais laiks.

Voting in Latvia

Balloting in Latvia apparently went according to ethnic lines. Jaunais laiks and Tautas partija—perceived as more “Latvian” parties—drew strong support in the Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Zemgale regions. Meanwhile, PCTVL ran away with the election in heavily Russian Latgale and received the most votes in Rīga and its environs, where ethnic Russians also outnumber ethnic Latvians. Ten of PCTVL’s seats in the 8th Saeima will be filled by candidates from Rīga, while nine will come from Latgale.

In all, 72.49 percent of an estimated 1.36 million voters cast ballots.

In Kurzeme, Jaunais laiks earned 26.66 percent of the votes, while Tautas partija got 25.32 percent. In Zemgale, Jaunais laiks received 25.57 percent to Tautas partija’s 20.18 percent. And in Vidzeme, Jaunais laiks received 27.85 percent of ballots, compared to 21.61 percent for Tautas partija.

But in Latgale, PCTVL earned 36.8 percent of votes. In a distant second was Zaļo un zemnieku savienība with 9.62 percent. Jaunais laiks, according to provisional results, remained breathing down the Greens’ and farmers’ necks, just five ballots shy of matching them for second place.

In the Rīga region, PCTVL—which had already shown its power in the Rīga City Council election last year—also came out on top, taking 30.11 percent of the votes. Jaunais laiks was in second with 25.94 percent.

Votes from abroad are counted in the Rīga region. Overwhelmingly, most Latvians abroad gave the lion’s share of their ballots, 51.83 percent, to Jaunais laiks. However, in Belarus, Israel, Russia and Ukraine, most voted for PCTVL.

Election results abroad

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *