The centre-right New Unity party of prime minister Krisjanis Karins is forecast to emerge with the most votes in Latvia's parliamentary election on Saturday, with around 20% support according to an opinion poll conducted by SKDS research centre between Sept. 2-12.
Eighteen other parties are competing, and about half are expected to cross the 5% treshold needed to win seats. Following are descriptions of the main parties in the running.
Karins' centre-right party is expected to come first after he steered the country through the COVID-19 pandemic and became the first Latvian head of government to survive a full four-year term. Karins has driven the country's hawkish stance against Russia following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
Polls suggest New Unity might be able to continue its current coalition with the conservative National Alliance, drawing in support from a handful of smaller parties, depending on which ones win enough votes to get parliament seats.
If so, the cabinet would likely focus on offsetting steep energy costs for households, maintaining increased defence spending and pressure on Russia.
A nationalist party founded in 2010 that campaigns on a promise to protect family and traditional values, and wants to limit the use of the Russian language in public life and deport those foreign citizens who express support for the Kremlin in its war against Ukraine. In the 2018 election, the party won 13 seats with 11.1% of votes, and became a member of the ruling coalition. It currently holds 11 of those seats.
The SKDS poll showed 11.3% support for the party.
GREENS AND FARMERS' UNION
A coalition of conservative groups closely knit around Aivars Lembergs, the long-term mayor of Ventspils who was put on a U.S. sanctions list for alleged corruption in 2019. Lembergs called the accusations groundless and said they were initiated by his political rivals in Latvia.
The party is currently in opposition with seven seats, after losing four of them in a party split. The SKDS poll showed it with 11.6% support. A strong showing by the Union could complicate coalition-building efforts for Karins, who has said he would not join forces with Lembergs.
The Social Democratic party, traditionally backed by Latvia's Russian-speaking minority, received 19.8% of votes in the 2018 elections and became the largest opposition party in parliament. However, the latest survey indicates 7.3% support for Harmony.
A left-leaning party backed largely by young, socially progressive voters, founded in 2017. In the 2018 election it secured only 2.6% of the votes, but the SKDS poll showed it could cross the threshold this time, with 7.6% support.
The liberal Development/For! party holds 13 seats and is a member of Latvia's ruling coalition. The party was hit by accusations of bribery by a businessman earlier this month and saw its support slip to 5.2% in the September poll from 7.9% in August. Party members denied the accusations and no politician has been named in an ongoing investigation by an anti-corruption group. Defence Minister Artis Pabriks, a member of the party, has been a strong supporter of Ukraine and has played an influential role in persuading NATO to increase its presence in the Baltic region.
(Reporting by Ugis Libietis in Riga and Agata Rybska and Boleslaw Lasocki in Gdansk; Editing by Milla Nissi and Frances Kerry)