Exit polls: Pro-Russian party tops Latvia EU vote

Left-wing parties rooted in the ethnic Russian minority were among the top performers in European parliamentary elections in recession-hit Latvia.

Exit polls: Pro-Russian party tops Latvia EU vote

Left-wing parties rooted in the ethnic Russian minority were among the top performers in European parliamentary elections in recession-hit Latvia, while a newborn government party also made major strides, exit polls indicated.

With a general election not due until October next year, Saturday's double- headed European and municipal ballots were a first test strength for the four- month-old government.

A survey by public broadcaster LTV and the Baltic News Service found that the left-leaning opposition movement Harmony Centre - whose core voters are Russian- speakers - received 20% in the European parliamentary vote, doubling its opinion-poll rating. A survey by the daily Diena and the news agency Leta gave it 17%.

If confirmed by official results, due after the rest of the 27-member EU finishes voting Sunday, the score would ensure Harmony Centre's controversial kingpin Alfreds Rubiks becomes a member of the European Parliament.

Rubiks was Latvia's leader before it broke from the Soviet Union in 1991, and was jailed after independence for trying to overthrow the democratic government.

Another ethnic Russian movement, For Human Rights in United Latvia, scored 13% according to the LTV and BNS poll. Diena and Leta gave it 8%.

Ivars Godmanis, Latvia's independence-era leader, looked set to become a member of the EU parliament because his centre-right opposition Latvia's First Party - which was elbowed out of government in March - won eight to 12%, the surveys found.

Exit polls also suggested that Rubiks' and Godmanis' parties had taken control of the prestigious Riga city council. Local election results were not due until Sunday.

Latvia, a country of 2.3 million people, joined the EU in 2004. It has eight seats in the EU parliament.

Latvian government statistics show that 630,380 ethnic Russians live in the Baltic state.

Not all of them are eligible to vote. Only around 368,000 hold Latvian passports in part due to strict citizenship laws put in place after independence to redress a Soviet-era "Russification" drive. The issue causes tension between Russia and Latvia.

Some pollsters have said the votes could affect the coalition's stability, but the prime minister played down this possibility.

"I do not think that there is a direct influence on the stability of the government," Valdis Dombrosvskis said on national public television, reacting to the exit polls.

Of the five parties in the ruling coalition, Dombrovskis' New Era was set for a result in Riga, the country's economic powerhouse, similar to or slightly worse than in 2005.

The largest party in the coalition, the People's Party, and the junior coalition party, the nationalist For Fatherland and Freedom, were set for sharp drops.
Latvia introduced strict citizenship laws after regaining independence, effectively leaving many Russian speakers without citizenship and the vote.

But many Russian speakers live in Riga and have naturalised to become citizens. Harmony Centre has said it also expected ethnic Latvians, angry at the government's handling of the economic crisis, to vote for it too.


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 07 Haziran 2009, 13:47
YORUM EKLE