Early indications suggest that turnout among Latvians abroad in the Sept. 17 special parliamentary election is mostly steady and could match that of the last Saeima vote in October 2010.
By 4 p.m. on Sept. 17, a total of 639,813 voters had cast ballots in Latvia, or nearly 43 percent of all those eligible, according to the Central Election Commission in Rīga. That was a bit behind the pace of the 2010 election, when about 46.6 percent of electorate had voted by 4 p.m. in Latvia.
Most polling stations in Latvia closed at 8 p.m. local time.
While voters in Latvia were still asleep, citizens wielding passports were showing up at polling stations west of the International Date Line, where polling stations were open in several countries.
By about midday, nearly 500 voters in Australia had cast ballots in the Sept. 17 Latvian parliamentary election, according to local election commission officials. In October, a total of 791 votes were recorded in Australia.
At the Sydney Latvian House in Strathfield, the first voters were already at the door when the polling station opened at 7 a.m., said local election commission Chair Ināra Edīte Graudiņa. The community center also offered breakfast, which apparently distracted some of the early voters who usually are the first to cast their ballots, Graudiņa said. By about 1:30 p.m., a total of 150 people had voted.
About 150 voters had cast ballots by 2 p.m. in the Melbourne Latvian House in Elwood, reported election commission Chair Jānis Roberts Dēliņš, who also is an honorary consul. As in Sydney, the first voters were already waiting when the polling station opened. Nice weather and a program put on by the Latvian school were helping to bring out voters, he added.
At the Latvian House in Brisbane, a total of 38 citizens had voted by about 2 p.m., according to Honorary Consul Juris Meija.
Honorary Consul Valdis Tomanis, chair of the election commission operating in the Adelaide Latvian House “Tālava,” said officials were very pleased with the turnout. The first voters appeared at 7:45 a.m. That was unusual, Tomanis noted, because the Latvian school only began at 9 a.m. and would be expected to lead to increased activity as parents brought their children to classes. By about 2 p.m., a total of 115 citizens had voted.
Voting also was taking place in Perth, but it was slower than expected, admitted Honorary Consul Jānis Purvinskis, who also served as chair of the election commission. By about noon, 29 citizens had cast ballots in the Latvian community center in suburban Belmont, he said.
The first voters in Japan appeared at the Latvian Embassy in Tokyo at about 10:30 a.m., said Dana Rudāka, secretary of the local election commission. By about 1:30 p.m., turnout numbered just five, but Rudāka said that experience suggests additional voters would be arriving later in the afternoon.
In China, no one had voted by about noon local time, but election commission Secretary Aleksandrs Novikovs said voters would likely be arriving later in the day at the Latvian Embassy in Beijing. He noted that nice weather could draw out some voters. With the start of the academic year, a number of Latvian students are back in China and could be expected to cast their ballots.
By about 5 p.m. in Uzbekistan, only seven people had voted at the Latvian Embassy in the capital city of Tashkent, said local election commission Chair Gatis Groza. The consular register shows that 20 people could be in Tashkent, he said, not including embassy staff. Among the voters were five tourists who cast ballots in the morning so that they could catch a train to Samarkand, the country’s second largest city.
In neighboring Kazakhstan, just five people had voted by about 6:30 p.m. and all of those were staff of the Latvian Embassy in Astana, said local election commission Secretary Iļja Minko. “Early in the morning a women called from Almaty, but so far she has not shown up,” Minko said. Almaty is about 975 kilometers, as the crow flies, from Astana.
Voting also took place Ankara, the capital of Turkey. There, a total of six people had voted by about 4 p.m. local time, said Ambassador Aivars Vovers, who also is the election commission chair.
In Israel, a total of 35 people had voted by about 4 p.m., according to election commission Secretary Dāvis Daudzvārdis. Given that 41 voted in October’s election for the Saeima, he said, it was possible that when turnout picked up in the evening it would surpass last year’s activity. The polling station in Tel Aviv was one of 124 allowed to stay open until 10 p.m. local time to accommodate voters of the Jewish faith who observe the Sabbath. Until the sun sets, Daudzvārdis said, public transportation will not run in Tel Aviv, nor will observant Jews participate in public events.
The election commission in St. Petersburg had been warned by several Latvian tourism agencies that their clients would be in the northern Russian city on election day. Still, said Chair Agnese Saliņa, officials were surprised by the record number of voters. Reached shortly before balloting was to end at 8 p.m., Saliņa said turnout at the Consulate General stood at 261—about 100 more than voted in October.
In Moscow, a total of 315 voters had cast ballots, according to local election commission Chair Vilmārs Heniņš, reached just as the polling station was closing. That number was just a bit more than in the last election, he said.
Voters in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad did not start arriving until mid-morning, according to election commission chair Solvita Martinsone, who noted that that’s typical for election day activity. With an hour to go before the polling station closed, a total of 33 citizens had cast ballots.
A polling station also operated in Pskov.
Polling stations were open also in many European countries.
Thirteen citizens had cast ballots by about 5:30 p.m. in the Latvian Embassy in Azerbaijan, election commission Chair Vita Freimane said from Baku.
Two polling stations operated in Belarus. At the Latvian Embassy in Minsk, a total of 84 citizens had voted by 7:30 p.m. local time, said election commission Chair Ināra Serafinoviča. Surprisingly, many of the voters were younger people, either students, tourists or workers, she noted. Last year, 67 citizens cast ballots in Minsk. The polling station in the Latvian consulate in Vitebsk could not be reached.
With just minutes to go before the polling station closed in Estonia, Ambassador Kārlis Eihenbaums told Latvians Online that turnout stood at 248, slightly more than in the last parliamentary election. “I had hoped there would be more,” said the ambassador, who also chaired the election commission. The majority of voters were tourists from Latvia, he noted. One young woman voted for the first time.
In Finland, more tourists from Latvia and fewer local residents seemed to be the makeup of voters at the Latvian Embassy in Helsinki, election commission secretary Zane Dzintare. With half an hour to go, turnout stood at 162, about the same number who voted in October.
With three hours to go before the polling station in the Latvian Embassy in Georgia was due to close, a total of 74 people had cast ballots, reported local election commission chair Iluta Čečiņa. She said most of the voters were tourists from Latvia who had arrived in Georgia in the past two days.
Two polling stations operated in Ireland, while the polling station in Newry Northern Ireland also drew Latvian voters. Overall, turnout was expected to top that of the last Saeima election, when only one polling station operated in Ireland. By about 6:30 p.m. local time, about 600 citizens had voted in the Latvian Embassy in Dublin, said election commission Chair Vija Buša. Among them were four young voters who had just recently turned 18. Buša said reports from Newry placed turnout at about 60 by midday. With about 90 minutes left to go on election day, the polling station in Limerick was expecting to see more voters on Sept. 17 than in July’s referendum on dismissing the 10th Saeima. Turnout had already reached 197, the same number as in the referendum, said election commission chair Kristīne Vītola. Voters came to the polling station in the C.I.E. Sports & Social Club from around Ireland’s western coast, including Limerick, Galway, Cork and Ennis, Vītola said. Among voters in Limerick was one first-timer—a 56-year-old man.
Voters in Sweden pushed the polling station in the Latvian Embassy in Stockholm to a new record. With 45 minutes left before closing, about 800 citizens had voted, said election commision Secretary Līga Usilenoka. During voting for the 10th Saeima, 630 ballots were recorded in Stockholm. Usilenoka said turnout was boosted by the arrival of a ferry carrying visitors from Rīga. At one point, she said, voters had to wait in line to cast ballots. Meanwhile in Goteborg on Sweden’s western coast, turnout also was up from last year. Shortly after 7 p.m. local time the number of voters at the Latvian church stood at 127, reported election commission Chair Vita Leimane–Viktorsone. After casting their ballots, a number of voters were meeting at a local pub to talk about the election, she added.
Activity was high in a number of polling stations around the United Kingdom. At Bradford, election commission Chair Māris Pūlis said turnout in the Daugavas Vanagi Fund center stood at 360 about an hour before the polling station closed, topping voter activity in the last parliamentary election.
As voting in Europe was coming to an end, polling stations in the Americas were just opening.
A total of 15 polling stations were set up in the United States, while three operated in Canada and one in Brazil.
By about 9:30 a.m. local time in Florida, about 10 people had voted at the Latvian Community Center in St. Petersburg, said election commission Chair Andris Ritums. “We are waiting for voters,” he said. Given that many members of the Latvian community may still be in their northern homes, Ritums joked that November might be a better time for voting in Florida.
In Boston, about 20 people had voted by 9:30 a.m. at the Trimda Latvian Ev. Lutheran Church, reported election commission Secretary Juris Raudseps. The first voter was already waiting for the election commission when it arrived at the church, he said. Raudseps added that the commission expected that more than 100 people would cast ballots Sept. 17.
“It is going slow,” admitted Jānis Vilciņš, chair of the election commission in Chicago. A total of 23 voters had cast ballots by about 9 a.m. in the Zion Latvian Ev. Lutheran Church, but Vilciņš said officials were expecting more voters later. “It’s still early.” The first voter, who had to catch a flight at nearby O’Hare International Airport, was at the polling station at 7 a.m.
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