Harmony member of parliament breaks away from party

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A prominent MP elected from the ticket of the Harmony political party announced on the first day of the sitting of the 13th Latvian Saeima that she was breaking away from the party and would in future act as an independent.

A member of the Honor to Serve Rīga party, Julija Stepanenko has served at the Saeima faction of the Harmony and is known as one of the party's most outspoken and high-profile politicians, frequently holding forth of matters of traditional family values.

Stepanenko made the announcement in dual Russian language and Latvian language posts via social media, saying she would continue to cooperate with Harmony when it did not conflict with her own values.

Indeed the social media post included a photograph of an agreement to that effect in Latvian signed by Stepanenko and Harmony's parliamentary leader, Jānis Urbanovičs - a remarkable document with which to start what appears to be another four-year term in opposition for Harmony.

"I'll tell you honestly - this legal measure won't change anything in my work - just, when I'm speaking, there will be no 'Harmony' written on the board," Stepanenko said.

According to the agreement, it was Harmony that offered the unusual arrangement and Stepanenko responded positively. The contract can be broken with five days' written notice.

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"I will continue my work in the same way as it has been in your interests since you already know me well as independent and active members," said Stepanenko, whose views on such issues as gay rights and have often been clearly at odds with what would generally be termed classic social democratic principles.

With Harmony trying to recast itself as a social democratic party rather than a "pro-Russian" party recently, the agreement may reflect an attempt to bolster that claim. 


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