November 29, 2022

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Opinion polls show Latvian Prime Minister’s New Unity party leading in the vote

Opinion polls show Latvian Prime Minister's New Unity party leading in the vote

RIGA (Reuters) – Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karenz’s centre-right New Unity Party is poised to win national elections on Saturday, an opinion poll showed on Saturday, after a campaign dominated by security concerns in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

If confirmed, the result should mean that Latvia remains a leading voice alongside its Baltic neighbors Lithuania and Estonia in pushing the EU to take a decisive stand against Russia.

But it could widen the rift between the country’s Latvian majority and the Russian-speaking minority over their place in society, amid widespread national anger over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

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Karenz, the first Latvian head of government to serve during a full four-year term and a 57-year-old dual citizen of the United States and Latvia, took advantage of his Moscow policy, which included restricting entry for Russian citizens traveling from Russia and Belarus.

“We’ve known Russian politics for years, and we’ve been trying to warn our neighbors for years before the war starts,” Karenz told reporters after the polls were published.

“We will continue to invest in our defense…to ensure that Latvia and the Baltic region remain as secure in the future as they are today.”

A LETA/LSM poll showed the new unit at 22.5%, twice as many votes as the nearest competitor, the consolidated list of smaller parties.

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The Greens and Farmers Union, a coalition of closely knit conservative groups around Ivars Limbergs, the long-time mayor of Ventspils who was placed on the US sanctions list for alleged corruption in 2019, ranked third with 10.9%.

Opinion polls have shown declining support for Latvia’s minority Russian-speaking popular parties, which make up about a quarter of the country’s population of 1.9 million.

The left-leaning Harmony party has seen its support dip into the single digits, with observers saying this was partly driven by a voter turn away from Latvia. Some Russian speakers were also disappointed by the party leadership’s criticism of the Kremlin on Ukraine.

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(Reporting by Andrios Setas and Janis Laysance); Editing by Justina Pavlac and David Holmes

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