RIGA: Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins’s party was headed for victory in Latvia’s general election on Saturday, according to an exit poll which also showed major setbacks for parties representing the Baltic state’s large Russian-speaking minority.
The poll put Karins’s New Unity in first place with 22.5 percent and said Harmony, a social-democratic party that has won the vote in recent years, could fail to make the threshold for entering parliament.
Latvians voted in the shadow of neighbouring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with many concerned about Russian aggression and expansionism.
National security and support for Ukraine were key issues for many voters, as well as the need for stability in this country of 1.8 million people on the eastern edge of the European Union and Nato.
"The election results look rather promising for my own party but it’s a little early to say," Karins told reporters after polls closed. Regarding Russian threats, Karins said: "Neither I nor my government nor my country reacts on fear. "We will continue to invest in our own defence as a Nato member state," he added.
Karins said he expected the consultations on forming a new government to begin on Monday.
Political expert Marcis Krastins said Karins was "most likely" to win, depending on how many smaller parties supporting him get past the five percent threshold for entering parliament.
"Russians invading Ukraine helps Karins to secure voters in Latvia because in such times people tend to rally around the flag," Krastins said.
The exit poll showed the United List, which includes the Greens and regional parties, coming in second place with 11.5 percent followed by the Green Farmers Union with 10.9 percent and National Alliance with 8.4 percent.
According to the exit poll, only one party representing the Russian-speaking minority, called Stability!, would scrape past the threshold to enter parliament with 5.4 percent. The minority makes up around 30 percent of the population.