04 January 2009

EuroCountdown: Latvia

Number of MEPs now: 9
Likely number of MEPs in June: 8

2004 results

Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK (For Fatherland & Freedom/LNNK) - 170,819 (29.8%) - 4 seats
Jaunais Laiks (New Era Party) - 112,698 (19.7%) - 2 seats
Par cilvēka tiesībām vienotā Latvijā (For Human Rights in a United Latvia) - 61,329 (10.7%) - 1 seat
Tautas Partija (People's Party) - 38,114 (6.7%) - 1 seat
Latvijas Ceļš (Latvian Way) - 37,357 (6.5%) - 1 seat
Latvijas Sociāldemokrātiskā Strādnieku Partija (Latvian Social Democratic Labour Party)- 27,437 (4.8%) - 0 seats
Tautas Saskaņas Partija (People's Harmony Party) - 27,423 (4.8%) - 0 seats
Zaļo un Zemnieku Savienība (Union of Greens and Farmers) - 24,405 (4.3%) - 0 seats


Once again, this is proving difficult. Although the turnout in 2004 wasn't quite as appalling as in some countries, the 41% showing is still lower than the average, and of course, that leads to some screwy results. Things aren't helped by the incredibly tight nature of Latvian politics: there are seven parties in the Saeima, and four parties are within 10% of each other at the top. There's also a four-party Coalition governing the country. Basically, if you recall how freaked out everyone was at how inconclusive the last Scottish Parliamentary election appeared, or how opponents of PR crowed at the result of the last German Federal Elections forcing a Grand Coalition, none of that has anything on how Latvian parliamentary arithmetic seems to operate.

Despite this, the last European Elections seemed pretty conclusive, and pretty safe for TB/LNNK. I don't see much changing for them (they gained a seat in the 2006 Saeima Election, and joined the governing coalition since then). Well, I see them losing a seat, but that's more to do with Latvia as a whole losing a seat. Indeed, the only real question for them is the group that they'll be in post-June. Right now, they're in the Union for a Europe of Nations group, but with its future having been called into question (even if the current members are in a position to form a group that meets all the necessary criteria, a number of them are thinking of heading elsewhere) they may have to find a new home, and matters may hinge on David Cameron's ability to get the Movement for European Reform Group off the ground. That's the group they're most likely to end up in.

For New Era, things are looking far bleaker. The party went down from 26 Saeima seats to 18 in 2006, and last year, a number of key figures left to create a new far-right party. In short, New Era will go backwards: the only question is whether they will lose one seat or two. This will be a small facer for the EPP.

And For Human Rights in a United Latvia aren't likely to do any better. It was an alliance of three parties, and while it's now a single entity, it's more of a rump, having lost alliance members and going from 25 Saeima seats to just six. This is pretty bad news for the EFA, and it's not clear whether the new Harmony Centre coalition (comprising, among others, the People's Harmony Party and the Socialist Party) would fit into it, or the PES. Certainly the 2006 results suggest that Harmony Centre would pull ahead of ForHRUL, and the combined results of the Harmony Centre coaliton members would be enough to give them a seat. The question is, will ForHRUL stay in?

Things seem a little safer for the People's Party: they became the largest party in 2006, so the chances are that they'll advance, and a second seat for them (and the EPP) is a possibility.

Latvian Way also face a bright future: they've formed an alliance with Latvia's First Party, which will probably be good to take them up to the 9-10% mark, making their position more secure. They're currently in the ALDE group, but they're heading further to the right, and the alliance with Latvia's First Party will only push tem further in that direction. Whichever they end up in, I predict one seat for them: no more, no less.

Finally, keep your eye on the Union of Greens and Farmers: they made a big leap forward in 2006, and became the second largest party. The one fly in the ointment is Aivars Lembergs, the mayor of Ventspils. Well, he's probably the former mayor now, given his arrest. He's pretty close to the Union so they could get hauled over the coals. Or they could escape unscathed, and cross the five-percent threshold needed for a seat. And if they do, it's a question of whether a Green or a Farmer gets the seat. If the former, they'll join the Green group (well, duh), If it's the latter, they'll go into ALDE.

So I'm saying three seats for TB/LNNK, two for the People's Party, one for Latvian Way. And the other two? Take your pick. New Era could hold on to one, the new far right offshoot - if it gets off the ground - could pick up the seat instead, Harmony Centre look like a good bet but ForHRUL could still hold on, at the expense of New Era. And waiting in the wings, the Greens and Farmers. This is going to be interesting to watch.

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