European Parliamentary elections: The Parties (Part 1)

With European parliamentary elections taking place on Saturday, June 8, it's time for our overview of the parties hoping to win seats in Brussels.

There will be 16 parties and political associations in the running, listed below in the order in which they will appear on ballot papers, from number 1 to number 16. For each party, we will give a brief overview of what it is, who its leading figures are and what its pitch is for a piece of power at the European level.

To stop this preview running too long, we'll split the parties into two groups in two preview pieces. For reasons of impartiality, we'll steer clear of estimating how each individual party might do at the polls – so we'll just take this opportunity now to say that it's clear some of them have virtually no chance as they represent very narrow interest groups. However, democracy is not only about winning – taking part even with little chance of success is still part of the process.

Obviously, LSM does not endorse any particular party or candidate and with strict rules in place regarding impartiality in public media, we can't really provide much assessment of how credible or incredible claims and promises in election manifestos might be. A little thought from the reader will probably be enough to come to a conclusion on such matters. 

Party names are given initially as written on the official party list. A lot of them feature the word 'Latvia' or its variants, and others have curious typographic traits such as using CAPITAL LETTERS, repeated periods/full stops, or including an exclamation mark (!) in the official name of the party. It's all part of the fun.

You can read more information about the election process itself at the website of the Central Election Commission and this summary which we have already published.

You can read Part 2 of the party overview on our other story.

1. Saskaņa (Harmony)

Quote"The interests of Saskaņa voters are taken into account at the European level, unlike Latvian politics."

Program: "Social support, medicine, education, housing and human rights". The party pushes its membership of the group of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, but how far it actually shares that left-wing ideology is arguable. Traditionally it was seen as the party of Latvia's Russian minority, but whether that's still the case is also arguable.

Notable candidate: Nils Ušakovs. Former Rīga mayor is the party's one current MEP and best-known figure.

Summary: Having been given a resounding thumbs down by voters at last year's Saeima elections, in which it failed to win a single seat, Saskaņa will be praying to get at least Ušakovs sent back to Brussels – not that he has been a particularly visible MEP.

Factoid: Saskaņa actually had two MEPs elected on its ticket at the last Euroelections in 2019, but the second one, Andris Ameriks actually represents the 'Honor to Serve Rīga' party. He was Ušakovs' deputy during his time as mayor. 


CVK info:

2. Jaunā konservatīvā partija (New conservative party)

Quote"Latvia can do more! Latvia will do more!"

Program: JKP pledges "National interests above all. Latvia must not blindly rely only on decisions from Brussels, it must be able to defend its interests much more strongly." The party also insists on reinforcing the status of Latvian as the national language, believing that the Russian language is often used "as a propaganda tool for the Kremlin in Europe".  There is a slight eurosceptic tinge to some commitments, blaming Brussels for excessive bureaucracy, and the party promises that local farmers will get a better deal.

Notable candidate: Former Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits is the number one candidate, but the number two candidate, writer Liāna Langa, is noteworthy. She is extremely active on social media, so it will be interesting to see if this can translate into actual votes.

Summary: The New Conservatives, then known as simply the Conservatives – were a standout success at the Saeima elections in 2018, winning 16 seats. They immediately joined the government and seemed to establish themselves as a force, only to flop at the 2022 Saeima elections and fail to win a single seat. They are one of several parties for whom the European Parliament elections might provide a guide as to whether they can make a comeback or might be better packing it in.

Factoid: Of their 18 candidates, 16 are listed as Latvian citizens and two as "not stated".


CVK info:

3. Nacionālā apvienība (National Alliance)

Quote"The main goal of the National Alliance has always been and will always be a Latvian, safe and prosperous Latvia."

Program: The National Alliance promises "to defend Latvia's interests in the EU, not the EU's interests in Latvia". It says all EU member states should be spending at least 2% of GDP on defense and advocates for strengthening the EU's eastern border against both illegal migration and military threats. Perhaps surprisingly, it is also quite enthusiastic about the EU's Green Course initiative and the circular economy.

Notable candidate: Lead candidate Roberts Zīle has been an MEP in Brussels for 20 years now and is currently a vice-president of the European Parliament. Consequently, despite being to the right of center, the party is in many respects less eurosceptic than other conservative parties in the group of European Conservatives and Reformists.

Summary: Now the longest-established of the right-of-center parties, the National Alliance will go into the elections feeling upbeat with polls suggesting it has a reliable and strong voter base. Number 2 candidate Ināra Mūrniece, a former Saeima speaker and Defense Minister, will harbor realistic ambitions of securing a seat in Brussels.

Factoid: 'National Alliance' is a handy little catch-all name for what should technically be referred to as the somewhat long-winded "Nacionālā apvienība 'Visu Latvijai!' - 'Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK'".


CVK info:

4. Latvija Pirmajā vietā (Latvia First)

Quote"We believe that left-liberalism is leading Europe to destruction! We are against the federalist tendencies in the politics of the European Union!"

Program: Latvia's most overtly populist party clearly takes a good deal of inspiration from Trumpism and says it defends traditional family values, specifically "A family consists of a man and a woman, a father is a father and a mother is a mother." It is for the cancellation of the Istanbul Convention and says "We believe that Latvia should cooperate closely with countries that strengthen family and Christian values!" but in almost the same breath also says Latvia "requires investment and financing not only from Europe but also from the USA, Great Britain, China, the United Arab Emirates and other countries," several of which are not notably Christian. The party program is notable for the fact that nearly every sentence in it ends with an exclamation mark.

Notable candidate: Holding the top ticket is 69-year-old Vilis Krištopans. He's one of several former Prime Ministers looking for a late-career seat in Brussels.

Summary: While its populist ideology may appear inconsistent at times, this barely matters in the post-Trump world, and LPV is undeniably good at publicizing itself in both traditional and social media (while often denigrating the former). Though many of its candidates are old faces from other parties, this is its first time in a European Parliament election, so it will be interesting to see if its messaging about liberals trying to destroy Europe and family values finds a foothold. 

Factoid: LPV is one of the very few parties that is actually fielding more women candidates (10) than men (8). 


CVK info:

5. Latvijas attīstībai (For Latvia's Development)

Quote: "The current one-size-fits-all approach, which is mostly based on the situation and accepted practices of large Western European countries, is not acceptable."

Program: Though ostensibly economic development is the self-explanatory priority of this party, the program leads off with a long list of security measures including the construction of 'Mannerheim line'-style defenses on the EU eastern border and "at least tripling the European defense industry's capacity and quintupling the part of the EU budget allocated for defense."  Other eye-catching wishes include separating Riga and Pieriga from the rest of Latvia in EU planning documents (Lithuania has something similar) and reducing the "burden of regulations, reviews and reports" required by the EU by at least 25%.

Notable candidate: Lead candidate Ivars Ījābs is a rare example of a political scientist becoming a politician – it usually happens the other way around.

Summary: The party was another one that flopped in the 2022 Saeima elections (when in alliance with the For! party) after a few years in the government coalition and is currently licking its wounds in the wake of a party financing controversy. Ījābs' intellect is well respected in the Latvian political world – he is one of few politicians who can explain the ideologies of parties other than his own convincingly – but whether that is enough to retain a seat in Brussels is perhaps questionable.  

Factoid: 50% of its 18 candidates are aged 41-50 years.


CVK info:

6. Centra partija (Center Party)

Quote: "We believe that the European Union and the West as a whole made a catastrophic mistake by abandoning the creation of a collective security space in Europe after the end of the Cold War"

Program: According to the Center party, it is the fault of the European Union and the West that Russia invaded Ukraine (described as a 'regional war'), which in the coming years may turn into an all-out war between Russia and NATO, it believes. You do not need to read between the lines to notice a pro-Russian tone in general, with a demand for the "unconditional renewal of permanent residence permits for those Russian citizens who have been non-citizens of Latvia" and a call for Russian to become an official EU language. Bizarrely, the program lapses into several lines of poetry from Rainis at the end.

Notable candidate: Second on the list is Miroslavs Mitrofanovs – a long-time colleague of Tatjana Ždanoka in the Latvian Russian Union (LKS) party. He's one of a select group of politicians who have been a Saeima deputy, a Rīga City Councillor and an MEP.

Summary: It might be argued that the party name is a misnomer as there seems to be very little suggesting a centrist position. A glance at the candidate list reveals that many of them have past or present affiliation with the 'Latvian Russian Union' and the party program explicitly states an intention to "continue the work of Tatjana Ždanoka." There has been an influx of LKS names since the party last went to the polls, and the merger/rebranding under the pre-existing Center party name is essentially a marriage of convenience.  

Factoid: What's in a name? This party was originally founded in 2005 under the name "Vislatvijas partija 21. gadsimts" (21st-century All-Latvia party). In 2009 it was renamed Solidaritāte (Solidarity) and in 2016 it changed again to to the Centrist party of Latvia. Since 2018 it has been operating under its current name. Who knows how long it will last?


CVK info:

7. Apvienība Jaunlatvieši (Alliance of Young Latvians)

Quote: "We want to loudly express from the rostrum of the European Parliament why we have become one of the poorest countries in the European Union"

Program: The program of this new party is interesting in that a large part of it seems to be a promise to lecture the rest of Europe about how mean they are to Latvia. "This should finally be heard not only by EU bureaucrats and civil servants, who know it well (because they planned and implemented it themselves), but also by the citizens of each EU member state," the program roars. Conspiracy theorists might be impressed by the party raising the specter of "an artificially created pandemic, which the WHO will be able to declare at its discretion at any time". Other items in a long litany of victimhood include the reintroduction of the lats to replace the euro as the national currency, the return of domestic sugar production on the basis that it could generate "billions" in revenue, and compensation paid by Europe "for the long-term losses caused to Latvia by forcing us to close our factories, liquidate the ship fleet and the domestic banking sector."  

Notable candidate: Candidate number 2 in Glorija Grevcova, recently expelled from the Saeima for lying on her candidate forms for election in the Saeima elections of 2022. It is to be assumed this time she proof-read her submission more carefully. 

Summary: This is a new party founded in 2023 and so in a sense an unknown quality. Its program suggests it is targeted at those who feel life has dealt them a hard hand and want to register a protest vote. The name of the party harkens back to the 'Jaunlatvieši' movement of the 19th century which was one of the early expressions of Latvian nationhood. Some might say to make such a direct comparison with oneself is somewhat presumptuous.

Factoid:  The average age of these young Latvians is 45 years. The youngest candidate is 36 and the oldest is 71.  


CVK info:

8. Apvienotais saraksts – Latvijas Zaļā partija, Latvijas Reģionu apvienība, Liepājas partija (United List – Latvian Green party, Latvian Regional alliance, Liepāja party)

Quote: "There should be a commissioner of the European Commission directly responsible for defense, and the European Parliament should establish a security and defense committee"

Program: The United List's program is one of the easier ones to read and one of the more structured. Interestingly, great emphasis is placed upon the need not only to secure the border but for social and economic life to exist in border regions in addition to military and defense infrastructure. Health literacy and first aid skills among the wider population are recommended and there should be a dedicated European Commissioner for defense matters. "The next five years will be decisive for future generations," the United List warns.

Notable candidate: Raimonds Bergmanis is third on the list of the United List – a former Defense Minister and incidentally a former Olympic weightlifter and strongman competitor. 

Summary: In a pragmatic and highly effective move, three smaller, struggling parties came together under the United List banner for Saeima elections in 2022 and finished in second place. However, after only a year in government, the coalition of which they were part collapsed, and an attempt to install party eminence gris Uldis Pīlēns as President floundered. Their poll ratings have dwindled. The European elections will provide an important barometer to measure how much of a following they can retain when not in the limelight.  

Factoid: Of the top five candidates to become an MEP, four are current Saeima members of parliament.


CVK info:


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