Saulkrasti registers highest turnout as referendum polls close in Latvia

Balsošanas iecirknis Rīgā

At 950 polling stations in Latvia, such as the one at the Rīga Latvian Society (Rīgas Latviešu biedrība), and at 78 stations outside the homeland, voters are deciding whether to dissolve the current Saeima. (Photo by Andris Straumanis)

Voter turnout in Latvia topped 44 percent in the July 23 national referendum on dissolving the Saeima, according to data compiled by the Rīga-based Central Election Commission shortly after polls closed at 10 p.m. local time.

Now the counting begins, but the result will likely be that 100 MPs will be out of a job and will start planning their campaign for the expected September elections.

In all, about 682,000 citizens voted, with turnout especially strong along the Gulf of Rīga, where many people were spending their weekend at a beach. Saulkrasti County, on the gulf’s eastern side, registered turnout that topped 150 percent thanks to voters from outside the district casting ballots there.

Turnout in Latgale province was the lowest at 34.83 percent, prompting one Twitter user to quip that if Latgale had a beach, voter activity would have been greater. The capital of Rīga also had comparatively low turnout: 38.49 percent. Vidzeme province had 54.38 percent turnout, followed by Kurzeme at 53.04 and Zemgale at 47.61 percent.

Results for voting abroad have just started to come in. Balloting continues in much of Europe and in the Americas, where polls remain open until 10 p.m. local time. However, results of the referendum are expected to be known well before the last vote is cast.

Posted 17:22 GMT

With two hours left before polls close in Latvia, the Saulkrasti district on the eastern side of the Gulf of Rīga has maintained its lead in voter turnout in the July 23 referendum on dismissing the country’s parliament, according to data provided by the Central Election Commission.

The two polling stations in the district have a combined turnout of nearly 143 percent, thanks to voters from other parts of the country who decided cast their ballots in Saulkrasti. Just to the south in Carnikava County, voter turnout stood at about 83 percent.

All along the gulf, where many people are spending the summer weekend, turnout has been high. Turnout topped 60 percent in Dundaga, Roja, Engure and Salacgrīva counties. Only Jūrmala, at about 46 percent turnout, registered lower.

In all, a total of 612,238 citizens had voted in Latvia by 8 p.m., a turnout of 41.03 percent.

Results of the referendum will not be known until after the polls close at 10 p.m. in Latvia. Voting will continue until 10 p.m. local time in Europe and the Americas.

Posted 11:43 GMT

Perhaps it is because of the annual jazz festival wrapping up there that the Latvian seaside district of Saulkrasti has already registered more than 100 percent turnout in the July 23 national referendum on dissolution of the Saeima.

Data compiled by the Central Election Commission in Rīga show that more than 4,900 people had voted by 4 p.m. local time in the two polling stations in Saulkrasti County, exceeding the total number of registered voters in the district by 3 percent points.

The Saulkrasti Jazz festival began July 18 and runs through July 23.

Voters in the referendum will decide whether to support or reject former President Valdis Zatlers’ call for dissolution of the 10th Saeima. Political observers expect the referendum to pass, meaning new parliamentary elections will take place in September.

In all, 482,180 citizens had voted in Latvia by 4 p.m., representing 32.32 percent of all eligible voters, according to the election commission.

Two other counties on the eastern side of the Gulf of Rīga also registered high turnout. More than 65 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots in Carnikava County, while about 53 percent had voted in Salacgrīva County.

Turnout in Rīga was low, registered about 26 percent of eligible voters by 4 p.m. In Latgale province, turnout was just under 25 percent. Kurzeme and Vidzeme provinces both registered about 38 percent turnout, while Zemgale province had about 34 percent.

Latvian citizens may vote at any polling station as long as they are at least 18 years old and have a valid Latvian passport. Turnout reports indicate the heaviest activity generally has been around the Gulf of Rīga, where many people may be spending the weekend at a favorite beach.

A total of 950 polling stations are in operation around Latvia.

Data for the 78 polling stations operating abroad were not yet available. Voters in the eastern Australian cities of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney were the first to cast ballots in the referendum. The final votes may be cast on the West Coast of the United States in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In Ireland, a total of 241 citizens had voted by 2 p.m. local time, according to the Baltic Ireland news portal. Ireland has polling stations in Dublin and Limerick.

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