Saturday, October 07, 2006

Latvian Votes

The opposition New Era party had a narrow lead Saturday partway through Latvia's first parliamentary election since joining the European Union and NATO, an early exit poll showed. It is Latvia's first parliamentary ballot after joining the European Union and NATO in 2004.

The poll conducted by the Leta news agency as voting continued in the small Baltic country showed New Era, which campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, with 19.5 percent of the vote ahead of Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis' People's Party with 18.7 percent, several hours before polls close.

The two right-wing parties have historically been at odds, and earlier this year New Era dropped out of the government coalition led by the People's Party. Despite New Era's lead, the three parties making up the minority ruling coalition had nearly 45 percent support, meaning that the current government could be given a mandate by the president to stay in power if the result holds up. The Greens and Farmers Union, one of the coalition partners, was in third place with 16.8 percent in the poll, while the Harmony Center, a left-wing party supported by With few hot issues in the campaign, the election's main question is which of the largely similar right-wing parties will be given a mandate to lead Latvia's traditionally shaky coalition government.
Though experts have been predicting a low voter turnout due to a lack of major issues and a campaign marred by corruption scandals and 20% of eligible voters still do not know who they will vote for or whether they will vote at all, it should be said that no one should expect any of the parties to emerge as a clear winner.

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