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RIGA, September 18 (Itar-Tass) — Early elections to the Saeima (Parliament) Latvia were democratic, but not without violations, international observers from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) concluded here on Sunday.
“This election has been run professionally and voters were provided a genuine choice between parties offering different platforms,” said Konrad Olszewski, the head of the ODIHR limited election observation mission.
The observers noted that some political parties made efforts to reach out to both main linguistic communities, although parties are still broadly perceived as representing either Latvian speakers or the considerable Russian-speaking minority, many of whom are non-citizens, according to an OSCE release.
While it is admissible to restrict voting rights to citizens, it remains a challenge that non-citizens, constituting some 16 percent of Latvia’s adult population, do not participate in the electoral process and are left without representation. The campaign in the lead-up to election day was low key, intensifying only in the last week. Well-developed and relatively strict campaign finance regulations were generally respected, and violations prosecuted promptly.
The legal framework is generally adequate, although there still is no possibility for independent candidates to stand, in contravention of OSCE commitments. The media provided voters with the possibility to access a variety of political opinions, it said.
On election day, election commissions in the limited number of polling stations visited by the ODIHR observers followed procedures and fulfilled their duties in a professional manner, but the layout of polling stations and occasional overcrowding did not always ensure the secrecy of the vote. The ODIHR mission will stay in the country to follow the remaining stages of the electoral process and will issue a final report with recommendations in about two months.
Early parliamentary elections took place in Latvia last Saturday. The previous legislature worked less than a year since it was dismissed at a national referendum initiated by former President Valdis Zatlers.
A total of 950 polling stations were working in the territory of the Baltic republic, another 77 were opened in 39 other countries. Thirteen political parties and organisations of the republic, which represented a total of 1,092 candidates, were running for 100 seats in the country’s legislature.
About 2.2 million people live in Latvia, of which almost 1.6 million have the vote right. According to the Central Election Commission (CEC) 60.55 percent of voters - 903 thousand and 470 people took part in the elections. According to the legislation of the country, the parliamentary elections are declared valid regardless of the voter turnout.
The republic’s Central Election Commission accredited 46 international observers, including 17 experts of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
Prior to the election, a number of changes in Latvia's party system occurred: The Social Democratic Party “Harmony” absorbed Daugavpils City Party.
The People's Party dissolved itself amid high debts and quickly sinking popularity.
For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK and All For Latvia! turned their election alliance National Alliance into a joint party.
The New Era Party, Civic Union and Society for Other Politics turned their election alliance Unity into a joint party.
Former president Valdis Zatlers (responsible for the referendum) founded Zatlers’ Reform Party, which is enjoying great popularity in election polls. Zatlers’ stated goal is to remove the influence of oligarchs on Latvian politics; with the dissolution of the People’s Party, the parties Zatlers considers to represent oligarchs are the Union of Greens and Farmers and Latvia’s First Party/Latvian Way.