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Latvia holds early parliamentary elections on Saturday

September 17, 2011, 7:02 UTC+3

Latvia on Saturday is holding early elections with the aim to form the 11th parliament

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RIGA, September 17 (Itar-Tass) —— Latvia on Saturday is holding early elections with the aim to form the 11th parliament. The previous one lasted for less than a year to have been dismissed in a national referendum, initiated by former President Valdis Zatlers.

The 100 seats in the national legislature are being contested by thirteen political parties and organizations, represented by a total of 1,092 candidates. However, according to sociologists, only five political movements will take parliamentary seats. According to a Latvijas Fakti opinion poll, published on the eve of the election, the leader of the race is the largest association Center of Concord (CC), representing the rights of the Russian-speaking population. The CC is likely to collect a plurality of votes - 21.2 percent. This political force two years ago won a landslide victory in municipal elections in Latvia, and its leader Nil Ushakov became the first-ever Russian mayor of Riga. He is also one of the candidates for premiership from the CC. In the current parliament this association was represented by 29 MPs.

Another 15.3 percent of voters support the newly created Zalters Reform Party under Latvia’s former president. And 15.1 percent support Unity, led by current Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis. The Union of Greens and Farmers, whose leader is the mayor of the Latvian port of Ventspils, Aivars Lembergs, can count on 9.6 percent of the voters. The nationalist association For Fatherland and Freedom/Movement for National Independence of Latvia – All for Latvia has the backing of 6.6 percent.

The other parties have not yet overcome the five percent barrier, needed to enter parliament. Among them is the party For Human Rights in United Latvia, which stayed in opposition for many years and represented the interests of the Russian-speaking population, but remained outside parliament after the previous election in 2010.

Meanwhile, 14.1 percent of respondents have not yet decided for whom to vote, and 10.5 percent do not intend to participate in elections.

The parliamentary elections will be held at 950 polling stations in Latvia and another 77, in 39 countries worldwide. Most polling stations will be open from 07:00 to 20:00 local time (08:00 to 21:00 Moscow time), and 124 stations, till 22:00 local time (23:00 Moscow time).

The Central Election Commission (CEC) has accredited 46 international observers, including experts from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the European Center of Geopolitical Analysis, the Danish NGO SILBA, as well as observers from Kazakhstan, Georgia, Lithuania, Estonia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Ukraine and France.

Latvia has a population of about 2.2 million, of whom almost 1.6 million have voting rights. Once again about 345 thousand will be unable to vote. They are Russian-speaking non-citizens, who, after separation from the Soviet Union were been deprived of citizenship of that Baltic republic and have no voting rights.

On July 23 Latvia held a referendum on the dissolution of parliament. President Zatlers initiated the plebiscite to have accused the deputies "of serving the interests of oligarchs," and the legislature, of “trading civil service jobs."

A vast majority of voters - 94.3 percent – cast their ballots for the dissolution of parliament, and just 5.48 percent were against.

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