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.
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.
11. Nacionālā apvienība "Visu Latvijai!"-"Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK" (National alliance "All for Latvia!"-"For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK", NA)
Quote: "The main goal of the National Alliance has always been and will be a Latvian Latvia"
Program: The tongue-twister of the full official name is thankfully usually abbreviated to the more manageable "National Alliance". Despite being on the right of the political spectrum, the NA program is far from a laissez-faire free market one, envisaging considerable state support for strategic sectors, social welfare, cancellation of student loans, free higher education and provision of rent-to-buy affordable houses on municipal land. Foreign supporters of the Kremlin will be deported, mandatory military training for men (optional for women) will be introduced and the work of the courts will be subject to "reasonable deadlines". Latvian will be the language of teaching at all levels in the education system.
Notable candidate: In a very interesting move, NA has nominated Sigulda mayor Uģis Mitrevics as its number one candidate in Vidzeme and as its prime ministerial candidate, rather than MEP Roberts Zīle, who has usually been the PM candidate in recent elections. Mitrevics is popular in his hometown and the general idea seems to be that everywhere in Latvia could be as nice to live in as Sigulda if the National Alliance is in charge.
Summary: The National Alliance represents a fairly broad right-of-center position, which brings both benefits and problems. The more extreme right-wingers tend to prompt some equivocation from more moderate potential voters (and vice versa), while the recent defection of one of its MEPs to New Unity for precisely this reason will not help. Nevertheless, the NA's unashamed stance as a nationalist, flag-waving patriotic political force resonates with people who value such concepts and unlike overtly nationalist parties in other parts of Europe, NA's strong opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and President Putin's revived Russian imperialism means the mood may be right for then to turn in a strong performance at the polls.
Factoid: Nearly three quarters (73%) of the National Alliance's candidates are male.
12. LATVIJA PIRMAJĀ VIETĀ (LATVIA IN FIRST PLACE, LPV)
Quote: "Let's get fines handed down for violating the COVID restrictions paid back."
Program: The program begins with the assertion that "LPV unites Latvian patriots who support family and Christian values" but does not explain which Christian values it means – presumably a belief in Christ being the primary one. Many of the policies involve righting perceived wrongs of the Covid pandemic, including investigating those who allegedly "repressed the nation under the guise of Covid", paying compensation to anyone who lost their jobs as a result of declining a vaccine, and to those who suffered ill health as a result of being vaccinated, and paying back all Covid-related fines. LPV also wants to get rid of the Constitutional Court, have a popularly elected president, and set up a fund financed by foreign investors paying 250,000 euros in exchange for a residence permit for their families. Citing a desire to make Latvia "The Dubai of the north" it concludes with "Let's make Latvia one of the richest countries in the world within eight years!"
Notable candidate: The big cheese of LPV is Ainars Šlesers, a businessman-cum-politician frequently referred to as one of Latvia's main "oligarchs". A former Transport Minister, his image has changed somewhat over the years from thrusting besuited capitalist business tycoon to bespectacled family values Christian Covid-skeptic populist. Whether there is any fundamental change of character behind the change of costume is for voters to decide.
Summary: Šlesers' attempts to make another comeback have so far met with mixed results. The party has certainly produced lots of pre-election materials including large poster sites and a widely-distributed party newspaper, but attempts to form alliances with other populist figureheads such as Aldis Gobzems and Jūlija Stepaņenko, which might have created a broader alliance of malcontents, ultimately fizzled out. The reliance upon Covid grievances, and the party's early Trumpian leanings [including the 'America First' echo of its name] might have played better a couple of years ago than they do now.
Factoid: This is just the latest in a series of parties for Šlesers which includes: New Party, Latvia's First Party, LPP/LC, Vienoti Latvijai (also contesting this election) and now LPV.
13. Konservatīvie (Conservatives)
Quote: "10 x 10 - in 10 years among the 10 most developed countries of the European Union!"
Program: The Conservatives manage to be very topical in their program by highlighting energy issues first of all. They promise getting rid of energy dependence on Russia and the corruption linked to it, having regional-level LNG infrastructure within 2 years and increasing solar and wind energy generation by a factor of 50. In education they are one of the parties committed to Latvian as the language of instruction and say they will double funding for science and higher education within four years, a very ambitious pledge. Speaking of ambitious pledges, they also say that within 5 years they will triple the size of the armed forces to 50,000 soldiers (including national guardsmen and reservists) and buy HIMARS systems. As if that wasn't far enough, they also pledge that Latvian roads will be "the best in the Baltic", though this time without a timeframe. Interestingly, as far as foreign policy goes they explicitly identify relations with the USA, the UK, Ukraine and 'Baltic Sea countries' as the main ones to focus on.
Notable candidate: Former KNAB anti-corruption officer Juris Jurašs made international headlines earlier this year when he set aside his Saeima mandate in order to volunteer for the defense of Ukraine. While opponents said it was a stunt, it seems to have been the real deal and does provide some evidence of the 'deeds not words' approach that voters tend to like.
Summary: The Conservatives (or to be precise the New Conservatives as they were back then) were one of the two headline successes of the 13th Saeima elections, alongside the KPV LV party. Four years later, KPV is defunct, and the Conservatives are lagging behind other coalition parties in the polls, in further evidence of the fickle nature of Latvian politics. Quite why this is so is hard to pin down, but they disappointed at last year's local elections. Their offering remains essentially the same, occupying the moderate-right ground between New Unity and the National Alliance, with anti-corruption a major concern. It may be that some of their voters have simply returned to the parties they used to vote for after a one-off protest vote, or perhaps they will decide to give the Conservatives another chance on the basis that there's still plenty of corruption around. They will be hoping that drawing number 13 on the voting list does not prove to be prophetic.
Factoid: The current crop of Conservative Saeima members includes well-known singer, songwriter and actress Ieva Akuratere. She took over Juris Jurašs' mandate when he left for Ukraine. The Conservatives also appear to be one of the better-educated parties with 85% of their candidates having a higher education.
14. KATRAM UN KATRAI (FOR EACH AND EVERY ONE, K&K)
Quote: "A radical change of political will and attitude is needed."
Program: K&K is the latest vehicle of Aldis Gobzems, a permanent and controversial fixture on social media, so it is perhaps surprising that the party's program doesn't really read like it was drafted in his emotive, tub-thumping style (for which see the very different 'Manifesto' on the party's website). The overall aim is stated as a rather uncontroversial wish for "a strong family, a strong nation and a strong country". This is to be achieved by various means including a directly-elected president, the introduction of e-referendums, a reduction in the number of Saeima seats (by how many is not revealed), free lunches for all schoolchildren and cutting VAT to 5% on a wide range of essential goods and services. In fact, measures that appear in quite a few other party programs. More interesting items include the founding of a free legal advice center for citizens, and giving automatic citizenship to anyone born in Latvia after 1991. The clunky phrase "Adherence to the remuneration norms specified in the regulatory acts" or in layman's language "paying the legally required rate" is included several times over, to the extent that it seems to be a way of padding out the text.
Notable candidate: Karīna Sprūde heads the list in Vidzeme region. She was orginally a colleague of Gobzems in KPV LV and followed him from KPV LV to K&K via a brief period when it was known by a previous name: "Likums un kārtība" (Law and order). Unfortunately it was during the "Law and order" period that she was fined by the Polish authorities for failing to declare the purchase of an expensive Rolex watch from Switzerland while transiting at Warsaw Airport. According to her candidacy declaration, Sprūde's university specialization was customs and tax administration. According to the same declaration, she is listed on the board of the 'Suverēnā vara' (Sovereign power) assocation. 'Sovereign power' is the name of another party contesting the 14th Saeima elections.
Summary: This is Gobzems' show and the success or failure of the party at the polls will ultimately depend upon whether he can convince a sufficient number people that he is a charismatic and clever challenger of the status quo rather than just a guy who can't get enough of hearing his own voice. Whatever his faults, it cannot be denied that he is a pastmaster at generating controversy and playing the media for all they are worth. What the party program consists of is almost irrelevant in this context, and no-one seems to mind that having bulldozed his way into Latvian politics with KPV LV four years ago (and being expelled from it a year later), he's still portraying himself as an outsider and martyr to the sinister forces of the establishment though a series of self-inflicted gaffes.
Factoid: 4 of the party's 115 candidates don't have a declared address in Latvia. Membership of the party (subject to approval) involves a 20 euro joining fee and then a 24 euro per year subscription.
15. PROGRESĪVIE (PROGRESSIVES, P)
Quote: "PROGRESSIVES represent social democratic, green politics without hidden influences"
Program: The party program stresses social responsibility in a manner that would make a libertarian shudder, but which is completely normal in many left-leaning Europarties. There is a definite hint of the Scandinavian model in many measures. Support for students and investment in research would be "doubled" under the Progressives and they also say they will "support the commercialization of innovations and the attraction of private funding for science". The health budget will be increased to an ultimate 8% via 0.5% annual increments and an energy efficiency agency will be founded to oversee such things. Sustainable agriculture and cooperatives get a thumbs-up, as does the Istanbul Convention, but they also pre-empt any suspicions of being wishy-washy with a strong commitment to defense and funding the armed forces.
Notable candidate: Andris Spruds is a well-known and well-respected academic who is one of Latvia's leading foreign policy experts as the mainstay of the Latvian Institute of International Affairs and Dean of the Faculty of European Studies at Stradiņš University. He also has the valuable badge of honor that comes from being banned from entering Russia.
Summary: The Progressives have been around for a few years now, building their party at local level, and declined to participate at the last Saeima elections as they felt they were not yet ready – an eye-catching approach in the world of Latvian politics where parties can often come and go with the speed of meteors. Equally eye-catching is the manner in which they have kept their distance from the liberal Attistibai/Par! grouping which is in some ways similar. This appears to have paid off with recent polls suggesting the Progressives are actually attracting more left-of-center support than Attistibai/Par! who now have four bruising years of coalition politics behind them. Whichever one of them comes out on top will likely be the main liberal voice in Latvia for the next four years and may exert a gravitational pull on the other.
Factoid: Candidate details include optional declarations of both marital status and ethnicity. All 115 of the Progressives' candidates declined to declare either of these. The party's metropolitan character is also demonstrated by the fact that half of their candidates give Rīga as their address.
We'll cover the remaining four of the nineteen parties running in the 14th Saeima elections in the final instalment...