Guide to 2014 Saeima elections: The Parties (Part 1)

Latvia goes to the polls on October 4 to elect 100 representatives to the parliament or Saeima for a four-year term. There are a total of 1,156 candidates from 13 different parties fighting for seats.

Some are familiar, some new - and some are a bit of both. Here's LSM English's not entirely reverential overview of what to expect from each of them.

Ballot no: 1
Name: Latvijas attīstībai (For Latvia's development)
Slogan: "We believe in Latvia"
Symbol: Red and white 'A' with middle bit fallen over
Website: http://www.attistibai.lv/
Figurehead: Einars Repse

First line of program: "Latvia needs predictable policies, not endless firefighting in one area while forgetting others."

Rundown: Latvijas attīstībai is the latest party to be founded by Einars Repse, a former central bank governor, prime minister and finance minister. Repse previously founded the Jaunais Laiks (New Era) party in 2001 which then became part of the Vienotiba (Unity) party that is still in government. Repse left Vienotiba after a stint as Finance Minister during which he cut a swathe by regularly wearing a leather pinstriped suit to meetings with the IMF.

The party contested European elections in May this year but failed to get anywhere with its pro-business message after the public reacted against its leading candidate Andrejs Zagars' perceived jet-set lifestyle. Zagars is not bothering to stand for the low-paying Saeima.

Further trouble came when hockey hero Sandis Ozolins said on national TV he would be a candidate in the Saeima elections - then promptly changed his mind when the party bombed in the euroelections.

Chance of winning seats: Low

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Ballot no: 2
Name: Suverenitāte (Sovereignty)
Slogan: "We're for sovereignty"
Symbol: Big red arrow pointing upwards. Slightly phallic.
Website: http://www.suverenitate.lv/
Figurehead: Andris Orols

First line of program: "Protecting the local market. Prioritising local production using local materials. Increasing the role of the state in the economy."

Rundown: One of the minor parties with a curious mix of anti-globalist and authoritarian policies, Suverenitate is essentially in favor of wholesale protectionism and a command economy, while at the same time reforming the electoral system to encourage more referendums. Most notable policies include ditching the euro and returning to the lats currency, reviewing EU membership and placing restrictions on foreign banks and businesses.

Chance of winning seats: Negligible

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Ballot no: 3
Name: Brīvība. Brīvs no bailēm, naida un dusmām (Freedom. Free from fear, hate and anger)
Slogan: The party name is its own slogan.
Symbol: Hands levitating oak leaves.
Website: http://partijabriviba.lv/
Figurehead: Anrijs Aumalis

First line of program: "National Latvian sustainable and balanced development. The state's main asset - people."

Rundown: A minor party whose ideology is difficult to pin down in a program full of vaguely uplifting thoughts such as "The main thing is people's health, rather than commercial interests."

Perhaps the most eye-catching promise is that anyone born in Latvia after the restoration of independence on 1991 should be entitled to a Latvian passport. They also favor the introduction of progressive income tax and the idea that families should "partially grow their own food."

Chance of winning seats: Miniscule

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Ballot no: 4
Name: Vienotība (Unity)
Slogan: Grow clever
Symbol: White paper 'V' tick. Eye-watering amounts of luminous green paint.
Website: http://vienotiba.lv/
Figurehead: Laimdota Straujuma

First line of program: "Vienotiba's election program is based on security, growth and continuity."

Rundown: One of the heavyweight parties, Vienotiba's campaign is headed by Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma and is based on the notion that if things aren't going too badly, why rock the boat?

However, this will be Straujuma's first-ever election as a candidate and what level of appeal she will bring remains to be seen after the party's biggest asset, former PM Valdis Dombrovskis disappeared to Brussels for a top Commission job.

Indeed Straujuma wasn't even a member of the party this time last year, joining days before her inauguration as prime minister. She's not alone either - the collapse of the Reform Party led to a series of its higher-profile members defecting to Vienotiba so that several of the party's leading candidates are newbies while longer-serving members have been shunted aside, creating some ill-feeling within party circles.

Vienotiba is hoping voters will opt for continuity rather than feeling they are bored and want a change. It performed strongly in European elections - but that was with Dombrovskis to the fore.

Chance of winning seats: Guaranteed

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Ballot no: 5
Name: Izaugsme (Growth)
Slogan: "Intelligence, competence, responsibility - that's the basis of growth."
Symbol: Four waves of increasingly deep verdure
Website: http://izaugsme.com/
Figurehead: Andris Skride

First line of program: "Izaugsme has identified three priority areas for action: health, education, culture and sports and the economy."

Rundown: Another smaller party, Izaugsme is particularly keen on reforming the health sector, saying the state should spend at least 5% of GDP on health and that the health budget should increase every year until 2020 to reach the average EU level. It also wants to take "measures directed against sedentary lifestyle, obesity, unhealthy dietary habits, tobacco, drug and alcohol use" so is unlikely to get many votes from bon vivants.

Its program also pledges to spend 1.5% of GDP on science.

Chance of winning seats: Infinitesimal.

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Ballot no: 6
Name: Vienoti Latvijai (United for Latvia)
Slogan: "We're ready to take responsibility for our country"
Symbol: Complex atomic structure in shape of Latvia
Website: http://www.vienotilatvijai.lv/
Figurehead: Ainars Slesers

First line of program: "Our goal - to take Latvia out of the backwaters of the European Union over the next 10 years."

Rundown: Perhaps the highest-profile party of the campaign so far, largely down to the fact that the newly-minted party is crammed full of grizzled veterans of previous elections and previous parties.

Among their ranks are former prime ministers Aigars Kalvitis and Ivars Godmanis plus the motor-mouthed Slesers and a galaxy of other ministers, officials and business people so that they have been referred to in local media as "The Expendables" for their mercenary qualities as much as their collective age.

They stand for tax breaks for companies, a Russia-friendly approach to business and a conviction that it wasn't them that screwed things up last time they were in power, touting their "experience" as a positive quality rather than a dire warning.

The key question will be whether the public is ready to forgive and forget for the sake of some political showboating.

Chance of winning seats: Low

The party list will be continued in Part 2.

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