The nineteen parties and political associations in the running are listed in the order in which they will appear on ballot papers, from number 1 to number 19. You can read more information about the election process itself at the website of the Central Electoral Commission and this summary which we have already published.
We'll deal with the first five parties below, with the others covered in three subsequent batches. Otherwise, the whole thing would be horrendously long.
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. Information is provided for general interest purposes only, and may be particularly useful for foreign election-watchers who are sometimes confused by the Latvian political scene and what each party stands for.
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 or including an exclamation mark (!) in the official name of the party. It's not our fault, that's how they wrote it.
1. Jaunā VIENOTĪBA (New UNITY, JV)
Quote: "We are united in the understanding of fair, far-sighted and competent policies."
Program: As a centrist party, New Unity's program is fairly middle-of-the-road in most regards and generally represents a continuation of current trends, particularly in financial terms, as it has been the party in charge of the Finance Ministry for long periods. It says it is "united in the understanding of an honest, far-sighted competent policy, strengthening the security of the Latvian state and raising the well-being of the nation," which could probably be party of any party's program. Some of the most interesting items are a comitment to spend 2.5% of GDP on defense and another 2.5% on internal security and public order. There is also a commitment to diverting 1% of income tax to NGOs and public benefit organizations.
Notable candidate: Guntars Račs. Latvia has a long history of musician-politicians, two examples being legendary composer and performer Raimonds Pauls and the current Culture Minister, opera singer Nauris Puntulis. Račs is well known as the drummer with a string of pop groups as well as being a TV personality and a best-selling poet. His presence certainly injects a bit of interest to New Unity's ticket.
Summary: New Unity found itself the smallest party in parliament after the elections of 2018 – but still wound up with the prime minister's chair, and has gradually added more seats via defections from other parties as the Saeima has progressed. In fact it owes its longevity partly to its ability to gobble up members of other political forces in trouble, who gravitate towards its centrist line. Polls suggest the public thinks PM Krišjānis Kariņš has handled Latvia's response to war in Ukraine well, and there doesn't appear to be much of a Covid-related backlash either, so New Unity will be hoping for a greatly improved showing this time around.
Factoid: Prime Minister Krišjanis Kariņš is one of three candidates in this election who have an American passport as well as a Latvian one.
Quote: "The ruling parties are trying to shift the blame to the Russian-speaking population of Latvia"
Program: The party takes particular umbrage at restrictions on the use of the Russian language in schools and the demolition of Soviet monuments. It favors "purchase of energy resources on the international market at the lowest possible prices," which means in essence, buying from Russia. The party program does not directly mention Ukraine at all. It also hopes to tap into some anti-vax votes by promising "abolition of all penalties related to COVID-19 certificates."
Notable candidate: Viktors Jolkins is listed as an assistant to LKS's best-known politician, MEP Tatjana Ždanoka. In fact he is just one of 13 assistants listed on Ždanoka's official European Parliament page, about half of whom are named on the LKS election list.
Summary: A party with overt pro-Russia and Russian nationalist tendencies might not be a very easy sell at the moment, but the LKS is doing its best to portray ethnic Russians in Latvia as an oppressed minority (in line with the Kremlin's take) and hope to attract votes via a bunker mentality from those who think the invasion of Ukraine was justified, as more moderate ethnic Russians will likely consider them beyond the pale. LKS recently suggested "stigmatization of the Russian state as the label of a sponsor of terrorism by this Statement could be used as a kind of a 'fig leaf' to cover up the unjustified criminal persecution of a number of activists [in Latvia]."
Factoid: Ždanoka's refusal to condemn the invasion of Ukraine led to her expulsion from her EP group.
3. Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība (Greens and Farmers union, ZZS)
Quote: "Democratic elections in Latvia are impossible due to the control of ruling parties over public media"
Program: Manifesto pledges include increasing defense spending to at least 2.7% of GDP, "restoring media independence" and indexing pensions twice per year. The program contains rather few specifics, relying mainly on general promises to improve this or that, but two concrete measures are paying 80% of income tax to local government and every very year in autumn paying a one-off benefit of 240 euros to seniors with low incomes, persons with disabilities, and children with rare diseases.
Notable candidate: ZZS' biggest name isn't even a candidate. He's Aivars Lembergs, long-time mayor of Ventspils, subject to US sanctions, declared guilty of large scale graft and other offenses and sent to jail (he is appealing). Amazing as it might seem to outside observers, he is ZZS' candidate for the position of Prime Minister and one of the party pledges is to "strengthen the fight against corruption".
Summary: It is crunch time for the once-mighty ZZS. With many of its most prominent and popular politicians departing as the result of an internal schism (see below), it will be interesting to see how many of ZZS traditional voters stay loyal to the old name and how many move with them. Once ZZS was a shoo-in to any government coalition, but the last few years have been spent in opposition and its selection of Lembergs as its prime ministerial candidate renders it toxic to several other parties.
Factoid: Despite its name, the Greens and Farmers Union no longer actually contains the Latvian Green Party, which is now running as part of the United list (Apvienotais saraksts) list. The greens, including former Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis, left over the continued influence Lembergs wields over ZZS.
4. TAUTAS KALPI LATVIJAI (SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE FOR LATVIA, TKL)
Quote: "Introduce a presidential republic in which the people elect the president."
Program: Whatever one thinks of the practicality of TKL's program, there is no doubting its uniqueness and it is helpfully provided as a list of 19 things to do. Among these are switching the entire system of government to a presidential republic in which a president elected by popular vote hires and fires ministers, and the revival of the local administration model that ended in 1940 including widespread use of local referendums. TKL wants to ditch the euro and return to the lats as the national currency and favors "direct economic cooperation to the principles of respect, neutrality and friendly relations with neighboring countries". It also says it wants to "refuse to participate in those international organizations that directly or indirectly hinder and limit the interests, development and well-being of the Latvian state and people," without specifying which organizations those might be.
Notable candidate: The main wheel of the party – to the extent that he is even specifically named in the party program (which is unusual) – is Edgars Kramiņš, a vocal coach and former director of the Latvian National Opera.
Summary: TKL has just 82 candidates standing in the elections (115 is the maximum number) and it is one of the more obscure contenders. Quite how appealing its "back to the future" approach to reviving a state with a powerful president and neutrality with neighbors with echoes of the later Ulmanis era is, remains to be seen.
Factoid: One of the TKL candidates, Edmunds Gulbis has dual Latvian-German citizenship. TKL has one of the more even ratios of women to men among its candidates with the split 45.1% women and 54.9% men.
5. SUVERĒNĀ VARA (SOVEREIGN POWER, SV)
Quote: "Establish by law that any medical manipulation against infections should not be a prerequisite for receiving services or the right to work."
Program: The program has three main eye-catching elements. First is an anti-vax element that promises not only that vaccination (and indeed any medical procedure) cannot be linked to a right to work or receive services, but also that all such matters in the past will be "thoroughly investigated and bring the perpetrators to justice" which sounds like an extraordinary legal process. The second program element is widespread VAT reductions or removal on things like animal feed, heating, energy, housing and small traders. The third element is major constitutional reform including a popularly elected president, the sacking of one third of all civil servants and halving the number of Saeima seats to 50.
Notable candidate: Jūlija Stepaņenko is the party's number one candidate in Rīga. She is a high-profile figure who is particularly known for her "traditional family values" campaigning. She was for a long time a Saeima member with the Saskaņa (Harmony) party, and is still one of the most frequent speakers in Saeima debates, but parted ways with Harmony. Latterly she has been linked to various different populist political parties running in this election. But Sovereign Power is where she has ended up.
Summary: The unusual manner of the party's recent formation was recently reported on by LTV and LSM. Probably Sovereign Power will rely almost exclusively on the appeal of Jūlija Stepaņenko and the various causes and organizations with which she is linked. On the other hand it may suffer from the fact she has been linked with so many different parties. It's entirely possible some voters might think she is still running for one of them.
Factoid: Jūlija Stepaņenko's husband, Vjačeslavs, is the party's number one candidate in Latgale, so there is a chance of 'family values' husband-and-wife seats side by side in Saeima.
We'll cover the next five of the nineteen parties running in the 14th Saeima elections in the next instalment.