Riga (Latvia): Voting opened Saturday in
Latvia`s snap parliamentary election that could see a
pro-Russia party emerge the winner for the first time in 20
years since the Baltic state restored independence.
Polls indicate that the left-leaning Harmony Center
representing Latvia`s large ethnic Russian minority could
muster up to one-third of the seats in the nation`s
However, two center-right parties in second and third
place in pre-election surveys are likely to join forces to
prevent Harmony Center from gaining the upper hand in
Approximately one-third of Latvia`s 2.2 million people
are minorities whose native language is Russian. Many of them
are so-called noncitizens who lack the right to vote.
Not once since the country gained independence in 1991
has a party catering to Russians been included in government.
Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union for a half-century
after World War II.
"I voted for Harmony Center. They`re down-to-earth and do
more to take care of people," said Ilona Dmitrijova, a Russian
who sells textiles.
Polls have also indicated that there is a large number of
undecided voters, who tend to be ethnic Latvians. How they
vote will potentially tip the scales in favor of the