The socialdemocratic Harmony Centre (Saskaņas centrs, or SC) appears to have fared even better in the Rīga City Council election than exit polls suggested during the June 6 election, in which Latvians across the country voted for their local government and European Parliament representatives.
With votes in all but two of Rīga’s 158 precincts counted as of about 10 p.m. Latvian time June 7, the Central Election Commission reported that SC has captured 34.38 percent of ballots. The new reformist party Civil Union (Pilsoniskā savienība) has earned 18.83 percent of the vote, while the conservative First Party of Latvia (Latvijas Pirmā partija / Latvijas Ceļš, or LPP/LC) has come in third with 15.13 percent and New Era (Jaunais laiks) is fourth with 11.05 percent. Harmony Centre is favored by many in Rīga’s Russian-speaking population.
Nils Ušakovs of SC may likely become the new mayor of Rīga, although his colleague Sergejs Dolgopolovs told the newspaper Diena that he still is a candidate, too. The new mayor will be elected by the new 60-member city council.
Ušakovs’ conservative rival Ainārs Šlesers of LPP/LC is not out of the picture, either, at least not as a power broker. Media reports suggest SC and LPP/LC, strange bedfellows though they might be, have enough seats on the new city council to form a two-party coalition, leaving Civil Union in the opposition. Šlesers, formerly Latvia’s controversial transportation minister, mounted a high-profile campaign in a bid to become mayor of Rīga.
Turnout across Latvia reached almost 53 percent of eligible voters. In all, 789,375 people cast ballots at 950 polling stations. Activity was highest in Rīga, where turnout reached 56.88 percent, but lowest in Kurzeme province, where 48.42 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, according to the Central Election Commission.
Across Zemgale province, a total of 114,285 people, or 49.29 percent of those eligible, cast ballots in their local government elections. In Jelgava, the Union of Greens and Farmers (Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība, or ZZS), captured 26.54 percent of the vote, followed by SC with 17.84 percent and New Era (Jaunais laiks) with 12.33 percent. LPP/LC did well in Jēkabpils, capturing 25.58 percent of the vote, compared to SC with 16.58 percent and the Green Party of Latvia (Latvijas Zaļā partija) with 13.84 percent.
In Latgale province, which has the largest Russian-speaking population outside of the capital city and where unemployment is particularly high, the leftist parties did well. Across the province, a total of 127,603 people voted, representing 53.19 percent of those eligible. In the local government election in Rēzekne, SC walked away with 43.51 percent of the vote, while 16 other parties divided up the rest, none of them topping 10 percent. In Daugavpils, the Latvian Socialdemocratic Workers Party (Latvijas Sociāldemokrātiskā strādnieku partija, or LSDSP) captured 29.84 percent of the vote, followed by LPP/LC with 27.68 percent and SC with 18.24 percent.
Turnout in Kurzeme province stood at 99,255 voters, or 48.42 percent of those eligible. In the local government election in Liepāja, the Liepāja Party (Liepājas partija) maintained its strong position, taking 35.14 percent of the vote. Following it were SC with 17.64 percent and LPP/LC with 8.39 percent.
In Ventspils, meanwhile, Aivars Lembergs’ party For Latvia and Ventspils (Latvijai un Ventspilij) has maintained its leading position in the local government, garnerning 59.96 percent of the vote, but has lost some of its power. SC, which four years ago came in third, moved up a notch with 18.89 percent of the vote. Three parties—New Era, Civil Union and the Society for a Different Politics (Sabiedrība citai politikai)—joined together on one ticket and earned 11.33 percent of the vote.
A total of 214,172 voters, or 53.18 percent of those eligible, turned out in Vidzeme province. In Jūrmala, the sometimes controversial local party Jūrmala – Our Home (Jūrmala – Mūsu Mājas) earned 18.27 percent of the vote, just barely topping SC with its 18.23 percent. New Era came in third with 9.26 percent.
For conservative parties, Valmiera proved a stronghold. The People’s Party (Tautas partija) found a bright spot in an otherwise discouraging election, harvesting 47.07 percent of the vote. Second was New Era with 17.37 percent and third was For Fatherland and Freedom (Tēvzemei un brīvībai / LNNK) with 10.04 percent.
Results of the European Parliament election will not be announced by the Central Election Commission until 11 p.m. Latvian time on June 7. Latvians voted to place representatives in eight seats in the parliament. Exit polls suggested Civil Union and Harmony Centre have both taken some of them.
(Updated with new vote totals for Rīga.)
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