Pro-Russian party in Latvia in coalition talks

Latvia’s Harmony Center party, predominantly backed by ethnic Russians, started talks to forge a coalition on Monday after winning the parliamentary polls, the party said.

Harmony Center, which won 31 out of 100 seats, is negotiating with former President Valdis Zatlers’s newly-established Reform Party (which won 22 seats) after President Andris Berzins gave the parties ten days to decide on a coalition. A ruling coalition requires at least 51 seats in parliament.

Unity, the party of Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, won 19 seats in the elections, the National Alliance gained 14, and the Union of Greens and Farmers secured 13 seats.

Snap elections were called in Latvia after then President Valdis Zatlers ordered a dissolution of parliament over concern about corruption and the excessive influence of major business figures.

Sunday’s polls showed that two out of three oligarch-dominated parties failed to make it into parliament and the third party moved into opposition.

Ethnic Russians make up almost 30% of Latvia’s 2 million population. About 106,000 of them have been given special non-citizen passports.

Latvia maintains that it was illegally incorporated into the USSR in 1940 and then occupied by the Soviets until 1991, during which time hundreds of thousands of Russians immigrated into the republic.

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