After its victory in the parliamentary elections in Latvia on October 4, the pro-Western centre-right coalition led by Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma will continue to rule the country.
The pro-Russian Harmony Party however became the second-largest party in parliament. Its voters want a return to the old Soviet times, some commentators believe. Others see the election result as a sign of reconciliation between the Latvians and the Russian minority.
Harmony party is Putin’s fifth column
It’s no big surprise that the pro-Russian Harmony party received almost one quarter of the vote, the Internet portal Tvnet (Latvia) believes:
“Twenty-three percent for Harmony is neither surprising nor shocking. The party had already received 20 percent and more in past elections, and the majority of its voters have always been situated in the Latvian capital. Now, however, this pro-Kremlin party has managed to bring together those inhabitants of Latvia who want to live in a state of self-imposed isolation and who support party leader Nils Ušakovs’ efforts to make Latvia part of Putin’s empire. This is further evidence that many long for a return to the old Soviet era. It will be difficult to integrate the advocates of this colonialist mentality into Latvian public life. Those who voted for Harmony don’t want to be integrated. They want to go on being Putin’s fifth column in Riga, Daugavpils oder Liepāja.”
Election results sign of conciliation
The election outcome in Latvia holds out hope of reconciliation between the Latvians and the Russian minority, the left-liberal daily Der Standard (Austria) comments:
“Clearly also among the ethnic Russians there are many who don’t feel comfortable with Putin’s ‘fetch home’ strategy. On the ‘Latvian’ side the marked increase in votes for Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma’s liberal-conservative Unity party reflects this. With her conciliatory, calm, completely unassuming manner the head of government also seems to many ethnic Russians a guarantor for understanding and compromise. This is an opportunity. Latvia’s ethnic problem dates back to the Soviet colonisation after 1945. This is a historical fact. But the problem can’t be solved by marginalising the Russian population, above all the 300,000 ‘non-citizens’ who don’t have a Latvian passport because they can’t speak Latvian well enough. Their integration wouldn’t just help the country. It would also send a strong signal to Moscow.”
Fear of Putin binds Latvians
The Latvians were guided less by domestic or economic concerns than by their fear of Russia in the election, the liberal daily Mladá fronta Dnes (Czech Republic) writes:
“Normally there is no pressing reason to show interest in elections in Latvia. But the times in Europe, especially those parts that lie within Russia’s reach, are not normal. The region lives in fear of Putin’s appetite for conquest. An appetite that Latvia – despite being a Nato member – may soon be made to feel first hand. One third of the population is Russian, and Putin could use them as a pretext. … The centre-right government that has provoked the people’s dissatisfaction with its austerity policy did not receive a rap on the knuckles. True, the pro-Russian and anti-reform groups won, but the others received enough votes to counter that. The reforms may hurt, but fears of a Russian invasion proved even more intimidating.”