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Latvia elections: Pro-Russia, Pro-Europe parties see gains

A quarter of Latvia's population is ethnic Russians, bolstering support for the Harmony party.

The pro-Russia Harmony party has topped polls and the ruling coalition lost its majority in Latvia's national election, according to results from over 80 percent of precincts released.

Latvia, a country of roughly two million, shares a 214km border with Russia.

Its location, along with its membership in NATO and the European Union, places Latvia on the front line of increasingly tense relations between Moscow and the West.

A quarter of Latvia's population is ethnic Russians, bolstering support for the Harmony party, which won 20 percent of the vote.

Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis' party Union of Greens and Farmers got 9.7 percent and populist newcomers KPV LV got 11.5 percent.

There was worry of anti-EU sentiment dominating the polls, but pro-Europe parties registered gains.

Liberal party the Development got 13.4 percent and the conservative National Alliance got 12.6 percent. Both have strongly pro-European stances.

Harmony, which is regularly the biggest party but fails to join ruling coalitions, will hold 24 seats in the 100-seat Saeima, the Latvian parliament.

A coalition will need a simple majority of 51 seats to govern.

The current ruling coalition of Union of Greens and Farmers, the National Alliance and Unity together got 29.2 percent, meaning they would have to find at least one other coalition member to form a majority government.

"Forming a new government will be very difficult," Kucinskis said after the election.

Latvia has long been plagued by corruption and money-laundering issues. The country's central bank governor is currently awaiting trial for accepting a bribe.

"The messages that the voters have tried to send is that we're going to have some new faces in politics," Janis Ikstens, political scientist at Latvia University, told the Reuters news agency.

"And perhaps they're not happy with the neglect of social needs."

A total of 16 parties received votes during the polls, Latvian public broadcasting service LSM.LV said.

Reports from 1,057 of 1,078 precincts show that seven parties crossed the five percent threshold and will hold seats in the 13th Saeima since Latvia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.

Six parties were represented in the previous parliament.

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