13th Saeima elections: The parties (Part 1)

Take note – story published 5 years ago

Now that all the candidate lists have been submitted and the ballot numbers have been assigned, it's time for a brief overview of the parties contesting Latvia's Saeima elections on October 6.

The sixteen parties are listed in the order in which they will appear on ballot papers, from number 1 to number 16. You can read more information about the election process itself at the website of the Central Electoral Commission and we will be producing a summary of our own during the run-up to voting day.

We'll deal with the first four parties below, with the others covered in three subsequent stories.

Obviously, LSM does not endorse any particular party or candidate. Information is provided for general interest purposes only, and particularly for foreign election-watchers who may be confused by the Latvian political scene and the plethora of parties on offer. 


1. "Latvijas Krievu savienība" (Latvia's Russian union)

Quote: "Our vision for the future - a united Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok."

Program: For use of Russian as an official state language,  unconditional granting of Latvian citizenship to all current non-citizens, right for pupils to learn in Russian at schools in Latvia, reducing defense spending, improving relations with Russia, privatizing public media. 

Notable candidate: Andrejs Mamikins, a former journalist who has moved further and further into Russian nationalist territory. 

Summary: Latvia's Russian Union is widely regarded as a pro-Kremlin, Russian nationalist political force that likes to depict ethnic Russians in Latvia as an oppressed minority. Led by former MEP Tatjana Ždanoka who caused outrage with her support for Russia's military actions in Ukraine and is now joined by Andrejs Mamikins, another MEP who defected from the Saskana party and notoriously popped up in Syria at a Russian military base and shook hands with President Assad. The party has recently raised its profile by leading a series of protests against educational reforms increasing the use of the Latvian language at all schools, including schools with a large ethnic Russian intake. 

Factoid: Ždanoka laid aside her Brussels seat in order to lead this year's Saeima election campaign - though it is not yet clear if she herself will be allowed to run due to restrictions placed on Soviet-era functionaries.


2. Jaunā konservatīvā partija (New conservative party)

Quote: "Cooperation with Western Conservative values for the purposes of becoming stronger."

Program: Reduce number of public sector employees by 30%, reduce number of ministries from 13 to 8, combine various security services into one super-service, boost anti-corruption efforts, spend 1.5% of GDP on science, institute media monitoring and reaction service at Foreign Ministry.

Notable candidate:  Juta Strīķe, former deputy head of the KNAB anti-corruption force has been a well-known figure for a decade but quit law enforcement for politics after failing to take the top job at KNAB.

Summary: Founded by former National Alliance MP and minister Jānis Bordans, the New Conservatives present themselves as a slightly more centrist alternative to NA, though NA would no doubt dispute this. The New Conservatives' main appeal is as an anti-corruption party with two high-profile former anti-corruption police officers representing them on Riga City Council. This will be the first time they have run in Saeima elections.

Factoid: One of the most visible candidates in the pre-election period has been another former KNAB officer, Juris Jurašs, who blew the whistle on what he said was a massive a bribery attempt.


3. Rīcības partija (Action party)

Quote: "Let us reject the devastating sanctions that lead the people to poverty."

Program: Switch to President elected by popular vote, reduce VAT to 18%, reduce excise tax on alcohol and tobacco, against ratification of Istanbul convention, against giving permission for gay pride events, against refugee intake. In favor of protecting local markets, positioning Latvia as a neutral country between east and west and reducing military spending.  Euroscepticism. Restoring sugar production in Latvia.

Notable candidate: Igors Melnikovs, a former Saskana party MP who quit Saskana in 2014 and joined and started overhauling the Action party a year later.

Summary: A little-known political entity with a mixed bag of populist policies from both left and right including anti-globalism and conservative family values, with many items in their program clearly geared towards increased relations and economic cooperation with Russia. If its Facebook page is anything to go by, it is aimed chiefly at Russian speakers and like Latvia's Russian Union opposes language reforms in Russian schools. It is hard to see how many of their economic promises based on tax cuts and spending increases could add up, including: "We will reimburse the losses caused to the people of Latvia due to ill-considered and unfair reforms."

Factoid: Formerly known as the Eiroskeptiķu Rīcības partija (Eurosceptic Action party) it has shortened its name but not dropped its eurosceptic principles.


4. Nacionālā apvienība "Visu Latvijai!"-"Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK" (National Alliance "All for Latvia!" - "For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK")

Quote: "The National Alliance's main purpose has always been and will be a Latvian Latvia."

Program: Creating Latvia as a "major cultural nation", using "all legal means" to counter Russian propaganda, expanding involvement of general public in defense realm, for EU but against federalized EU, making Latvia "the most family-friendly country in Europe", reverse net migration, support permanent presence of NATO troops.

Notable candidate: Culture Minister Dace Melbārde leads the party's Rīga list and should be able to take advantage of a feelgood factor after a successful song and dance festival this summer. 

Summary: One of three parties forming the current ruling coalition, the National Alliance, as the name suggests, is in fact made up of several smaller parties but acts as a single party. This does however explain why its MPs cover a large swathe of right-of-center territory from mainstream conservative to some considerably further to the right of the political spectrum. Perhaps surprisingly, given the deterioration of relations with Russia over the last four years and the demise of the soft-right Vienotiba party, its poll ratings have generally remained stable rather than picked up appreciably, but they will hope to improve on their current complement of 16 Saeima deputies. There is no love lost between NA and the New Conservative party, despite their theoretical ideological closeness. 

Factoid: The National Alliance's announced prime ministerial candidate is MEP Roberts Zīle, regarded as one of the party's more moderate voices. He is not running in the Saeima elections himself but has said he would quit Brussels if required.

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