13th Saeima elections: The parties (Part 3)

We continue our look at the sixteen parties which will contest the next Saeima elections on October 6.

The 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.

Having already dealt with the first eight parties, here are the next four.

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.

 

9. "Saskaņa" sociāldemokrātiskā partija ("Harmony" social democratic party)

Quote"The policies of ethnic division, exclusion, hatred and internal enemies must be ended."

Program: "3+3" economic development plan, create a national brand of organic agriculture and a higher education export center, 9 development regions around major cities, reopening of Daugavpils airport, introducing trilingual education in schools (Latvian plus two others), long-term financing of education to 6% of GDP, of health to 7% of GDP, build relations of "mutual respect" with Russia and other former CIS countries, creation of local municipal pharmacies to reduce medicine costs, index-linked pensions.

Notable candidate: Vjačeslavs Dombrovskis is the prime ministerial candidate. An economist and academic by training, he also has ministerial experience as Education Minister and Economics Minister while a member of the now defunct Reform Party. He takes a particularly keen interest in the economic theories of Dani Rodrik

Summary: Could this finally be the year Saskaņa gets its hands on power? Some people think so. Despite consistently polling among the top two parties at recent elections, Saskaņa has never been part of a ruling coalition since the restoration of independence in 1991. The reason is simple: it has always been seen as a "Russian" party and indeed does draw the majority of its support from Latvia's large Russian minority. Recent years have seen party leader Nils Ušakovs trying to modernize the party's image and rebrand it as a European "social democrat" party - though opinion remains divided on whether this is much more than a cosmetic change and how genuinely committed to the principles of social democracy Saskaņa is.
However, it is notable that a cooperation agreement with Vladimir Putin's United Russia party was quietly dropped and despite appearing on election posters, Ušakovs himself is not running in the election, raising the prospect of Harmony running the capital city and having at least a hand in running the country - with the example of the Center Party in Estonia to point to as evidence that it might not be a disaster.   

Factoid: The party officially translates Saskaņa as "Concord" but for some reason, "Harmony" is the name that has tended to stick in English-language coverage.

 

10. Attīstībai/Par! (For development/For!)

Quote"Our aim is a modern and just Latvia in a united Europe."

Program: Students learn at least three languages, supports same-sex civil partnerships, introduce electronic voting, make public administration more friendly, eco=friendly food in schools, more use of robots, committed to EU and NATO, increase minimum wage to 500 euros untaxed, reform tax system, double nurses' pay, triple funding for science.

Notable candidate: Another Vienotiba veteran, MEP and former Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks is the Prime Ministerial candidate.

Summary: A dual-ticket effort featuring a liberal-business oriented party in Attīstībai and a newly-formed centrist-liberal party in Par! which was formed by a breakaway of MPs from the centrist Vienotiba party - most of whom who promptly disappeared again when Par! was formed. The alliance will be hoping to hoover up votes from Vienotiba and young voters disillusioned by the usual parties. It has so far been quite slick in its presentational style, but its claims to being fresh-faced are a little undermined by having many already well-known politicians high up on its party lists. On the other hand, several notable figures from the arts and academia have come out as supporters. It will be interesting to see if the compromise centrist tendency of this alliance or the out-and-out social democracy of the Progressives polls best.  

Factoid: The alliance has four candidates standing who have American citizenship in addition to Latvian citizenship. Par! is one of two political parties with an exclamation mark as part of its name - the other is Visu Latvija! (All for Latvia!), part of the National Alliance.

 

11. Latvijas Reģionu Apvienība (Latvia's Regional Alliance)

Quote"We see Latvia as a country that protects its own citizens and the family as a cornerstone of society."

Program: Closer linkage of vocational education with the labor market, special support for small and organic farmers, promote credit unions, Restrict maximum interest rates on consumer loans to 25% per annum, 12% VAT rate for catering and tourism services, 5% VAT on medicines, restoration of police academy, opening KGB archive to the public, 2% of municipal budget use to be decided by residents identifying priorities. Encouraging foster families, support for EU and NATO.

Notable candidate: Two years ago, Edvards Smiltens was close to securing leadership of the Vienotiba party, which he said he would rebuild. Having failed to secure the nomination, he defected to Latvia's Regional Alliance and now leads their party list in Vidzeme region instead.  

Summary: Latvia's Regional Alliance was catapulted into Saeima at the 2014 elections on the back of a remarkable surge of support for the candidate at the bottom of its party list: actor and shock-jock Artuss Kaiminš. Since then Kaiminš has departed in typically grandstanding fashion, as has former party leader Martins Bondars, now aboard the Attīstībai/Par! bandwagon. Without their two high-profile but troublesome stars, LRA has reverted to what it should probably have been anyway: a collection of smaller regional interests. They have attracted a few defectors from Vienotiba and For Latvia from the heart along the way, but might struggle to get back into Saeima unless it is on the back of voters deciding to vote while thinking locally rather than nationally. After all, their candidates do actually come from the regions in which they are standing - which is not always the case.

Factoid: LRA is one of several parties that has said it would under no circumstances form a coalition involving Saskaņa, which it dubs a "pro-Kremlin" party.

 

12. "Latviešu Nacionālisti" ("Latvian Nationalists")

Quote"Latvia - a  Latvian country!"

Program: Introduce majority voting election system. President to become head of the cabinet, "bipartite parliament in place of the present useless multiparty Saeima", relocation of ministries to regions, healthcare spending 5% of GDP, Science funding 2% of GDP, free summer camps and language courses for children of Latvian diaspora, parents with 5 or more children pay no income tax, minimum state pension 400 euros, maximum state pension 2,000 euros, differentiated VAT, income tax from 7% to 15% depending on income, "revision of all international agreements signed by Latvia", opening KGB files, large pay increases for doctors and nurses, preservation of small rural schools, support establishment of national banks and credit unions.

Notable candidate: 82-year old choral conductor Edgars Račevsksis, a legend of the Latvian Song Festival, is among the candidates. 

Summary: Fielding just 70 candidates and with a dizzying selection of policies, some of which appear extremely radical - such as a total change to the voting system and the way Saeima works and a new constitution from 2022. A leading figure among the party is Andris Rubins, a doctor whose features have long adorned an enigmatic billboard beside the highway in Sigulda declaring "Never give up!"  and who believes that nationalism in Europe is becoming more popular, according to LTV. In the last Saeima elections he was on the Latvia's Regional Alliance ticket but was not elected to Saeima, though he did serve as a Saeima deputy in the 6th Saeima (1995-8) with the People's Movement for Latvia. The party does not appear to have a website and might therefore easily be confused with a right-wing vigilante group using a similar name for its website. 


Factoid: The average age of this party's candidates is 56.9 years - 10 years older than the average across all parties.

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