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Saturday, October 02, 2010

Latvian inmates vote in parliamentary elections for first time ever

Latvian inmates vote in parliamentary elections for first time ever

Latvian residents who are currently behind bars have for the first time ever obtained the right to vote in the country's parliamentary elections, the press service for the Latvian Penitentiary Service said.

Elections to the Latvian parliament take place on Saturday. Over 1,000 polling stations have been set up in Latvia and abroad to cater to some 1.5 million voters.

Over 4,700 Latvian prisoners enjoy the right to vote and 3,820 of them have indicated willingness to cast their ballots. Inmates from five of the country's twelve prisons have already voted and convicts from the other seven prisons will cast their ballots within the next hours.

The opposition Saskanas Centrs (Harmony Centre) party representing the Russian-speaking majority is leading in opinion polls.

Public anger at the country's recent austerity measures could help the Saskanas Centrs grab seats in parliament for the first time in two decades, analysts say.

But the opinion polls also show strong support for Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis' Vienotiba (Unity) bloc. Dombrovskis, who still enjoys widespread popularity despite the unpopular budget cuts and tax increases, entered office in 2009 when the recession was at its worst.

Comment: Latvia joined Hirst v UK (No2) as an interested party.

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Pro-Russia party set to top the polls for first time in Latvian general election

A centre-left ethnic Russian party was poised to top the polls in Latvia’s general election – the first time in the country’s 20 years of independence that a pro-Russia party would win the most seats in Parliament.

Harmony Center, which predominantly consists of ethnic Russians living in Latvia, almost certainly will not win a majority in the 100-seat legislature, nor would it be guaranteed a role in the next government.

However, a strong showing would most likely allow the party to sit in a future coalition given the high rate of government turnover in the tiny Baltic state.

Many people fear that Harmony Center would steer Latvia, a country of 2.3 million people, away from Nato and the European Union – it joined both in 2004 – and toward Russia.

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