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Latvia - 2014 Election

Latvian ruling Unity Party took the lead in Latvian parliamentary elections 04 October 2014 with 23.8 percent of votes, according to exit poll data. Around 19.4 percent of Latvian voters supported the Union of Greens and Farmers agrarian political alliance comprising two parties. Exit polls suggest Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma's governing alliance -- which includes the Unity party, the Nationalist Alliance, and the Union of Greens and Farmers --- won nearly 62 percent of the vote. That would equate to about 63 of the 100 seats in parliament. Two new parties also appeared poised to cross the 5 percent threshold needed to win parliamentary seats.

Exit polls show the pro-Russian Social Democratic Party Harmony (also referred to as Social Democratic Party Concord) -- which was mainly backed by Latvias ethnic Russian minority -- in the second place with 21.6 percent of the votes. Harmony was allied with Russian President Vladimir Putins United Russia party. The election has been dominated by concerns about a resurgent Russia, with the Kremlins annexation of Crimea and involvement in eastern Ukraine causing alarm in Latvia.

The crisis in and around Ukraine had an impact on Latvian politics and brought national security issues to the forefront of the campaign. Other issues raised during the campaign included the defence budget, dependence on Russian gas imports, the economy, the health system, emigration, and the sale of the national Citadele Bank to private investors. In addition, issues related to national minorities, including the status of the Russian language and the system of state-funded education in minority languages, featured in some party programmes and were discussed in pre-election debates. The media also featured reports about alleged links between some parties and the Russian Federation.

On 03 June 2015 lawmakers elected Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis Latvia's new president at an extraordinary parliament session. It took five rounds of secret voting to ensure Vejonis' victory in Latvia's 2015 presidential election. Vejonis was elected president in a vote of 55 to 42. Vejonis had twice been elected to the Latvian parliament. The current defence ministerin Latvia's current center-right cabinet and member of the center-right Green Party had been an outspoken critic of Russian actions over Ukraine and a supporter of a greater NATO presence in the Baltic.

On December 07, 2015 Latvia's prime minister Laimdota Straujuma said she was stepping down after only two years in office because "new ideas are needed." Her resignation follows in-fighting within her center-right ruling coalition. Straujuma, who took office in January 2014 following the resignation of predecessor Valdis Dombrovskis, had in recent weeks been subject to repeated rumours about her resignation, apparently emanating from within her own 'Unity' political party. On December 4 she claimed an organized campaign had been launched against her but signalled her willingness to continue in office.

Straujuma backed Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis as a potential successor and reaffirmed that her reason for stepping aside was because she was tired of political infighting. President Raimonds Vejonis said he would hold discussions with all political parties before choosing someone to promptly form a new government because of the "escalation of the security situation in Europe." There was little likelihood that pattern will change, so that the next government coalition was likely to look similar - if not identical - to the outgoing alliance of Unity, the National alliance and the Greens and Farmers Union.

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