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World: Centrists set to win as Latvia holds elections

"They did not say anything when we discovered Boutcha": Latvia does not want Russian deserters

 © Ouest-France-Thierry Creux on the border between Latvia and Belarus, near the city of Daugavpils, 120 trucks were pending Wednesday, September 21, 2022 to return to the Latvian side, while the cars of individuals were passing by drops. Many young Russians try to flee their country after the announcement of a partial mobilization for the army, decided by Vladimir Putin. They will find closed frontiers if they try to join Latvia.

Latvians headed to the polls on Saturday in the shadow of neighbouring Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with victory expected for centrist parties that have vowed to continue backing Kyiv.

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins is most likely expected to win © GABRIEL BOUYS Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins is most likely expected to win

Opinion polls ahead of the general election have shown a weakening of populists, conservatives and the social-democratic party Harmony which usually has strong support from Latvia's large Russian-speaking minority.

Political expert Marcis Krastins said Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins was "most likely" to win, depending on how many smaller parties supporting him get past the five percent threshold for entering parliament.

refugees: Chaos at national borders - Latvia calls the

 refugees: Chaos at national borders - Latvia calls the announcement to partially mobilize by Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to ensure chaos and unrest at the Russian external borders. F Innand, Georgia and Kazakhstan report a drastic increase in entry from Russia , Latvia has declared the state of emergency due to the high rush. © dpa The entries from Russia on the Finnish border have increased significantly. The order of the Latvian government for the border area enables the authorities to take additional measures to protect the limit.

"Russians invading Ukraine helps Karins to secure voters in Latvia because in such times people tend to rally around the flag," Krastins said.

Karins's New Unity Party topped one recent opinion poll with 13.3 percent. 

Harmony, which has come first in recent elections but has lacked enough allies to govern the Baltic state, got 5.1 percent.

Ahead of the election, President Egils Levits warned voters against backing politicians in the Russian-speaking community who "hesitated to clearly state who is the aggressor and who is the victim at the outset of the Russian invasion".

Referring to the energy crisis and economic difficulties, he warned against populists saying he was "highly sceptical of political parties and figures promising to get us out of this mess quickly and easily.

Draft Dodgers Slam Putin’s War After Finally Escaping Russia

  Draft Dodgers Slam Putin’s War After Finally Escaping Russia ISTANBUL—Misha, 40, an IT worker from Moscow, landed at the Istanbul airport on Wednesday evening—which he said was the soonest he could get away from Russia to avoid the possibility of fighting in Ukraine. Lugging a large gray suitcase and looking for the nearest bank machine, he said 70 percent of his fellow passengers on the flight to Turkey were men. He believed that if he stayed in Russia, he’d have a 50-50 chance of conscription after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of 300,000 men on Sept. 21. “If I would go [to the military], first of all I could be killed, secondly, I would have to kill and, thirdly, I admire Ukraine.

"I do not trust those who offer simple, and most often useless, solutions to extraordinarily complex problems," he said in a statement.

Dominated over the centuries by Teutonic knights, Swedes, Poles, then Russians, Latvia gained independence in 1918 before finding itself under Soviet occupation in 1944-1990. 

Today, the Russian-speaking minority makes up around 30 percent of the population of 1.8 million. 

Polling stations opened at 0400 GMT and close at 1700 GMT.

- Fears over Russian expansionism -

Along with inhabitants of nearby Poland and their Baltic neighbours Lithuania and Estonia, many Latvians are worried about Russia's expansionist plans and feel their country is vulnerable even though it is an EU and NATO member.

The outgoing government has shown strong support for Ukraine, hiked defence spending and worked towards greater energy security.

Latvia's Russian-speakers fear becoming Ukraine war 'collateral'

  Latvia's Russian-speakers fear becoming Ukraine war 'collateral' Russia's invasion of Ukraine has complicated things for Latvia's Russian-speakers, already caught between an attachment to country versus cultural and linguistic identity and who now fear becoming collateral victims of Moscow's war. - 'Kremlin-friendly fake news' - The Ukraine war has only further complicated things. "In Latvia, Russian-speakers are in a way collateral victims of the war," said Miroslavs Mitrofanovs, co-chairman of the Latvian Russian Union.

The Harmony party, which scored 20 percent at the last election in 2018, has been on a path of gradual decline since then in part because of a series of corruption scandals.

Harmony has condemned Russia's invasion but has been less vocal about accusations that Russian forces are carrying out human rights atrocities.

The Russian-speaking electorate has turned to two new parties -- one that is openly pro-Kremlin and another favourable to Russia but less staunchly so.

Some Russian speakers in Ukraine say Latvian attitudes towards them have deteriorated since the war started and feel their linguistic and cultural identity is being challenged.

"In Latvia, Russian-speakers are in a way collateral victims of the war," said Miroslavs Mitrofanovs, co-chairman of the Latvian Russian Union party.

il/via/dt/ach 

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