Reuters - Video

Edition: US | UK | IN | CN | JP

Video

Russia tensions influence Latvia vote

Friday, October 03, 2014 - 02:09

Latvians vote in general elections on Saturday, with the country's economy expanding after years of austerity. But as Ivor Bennett reports not all voters are satisfied with the existing government partly thanks to tensions between Russia and the West.

▲ Hide Transcript

View Transcript

It has a population of just two million but Latvia is one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. After years of austerity following the financial crisis it was allowed to join the euro zone earlier this year. But then Russia invaded Crimea. Latvia borders Russia and 21% of its voters are ethnic Russians. Sociologist Arnis Kaktins says that doesn't mean the Ukraine crisis is dominating the election. (SOUNDBITE) (Latvian) SOCIOLOGIST, ARNIS KAKTINS SAYING: "The issues that people care most about aren't the ethnic ones. They are the traditional ones topical in all Western democracies - the economy, jobs, social services and healthcare." Opinion polls suggest the ruling centre-right coalition has a good chance of being re-elected. But the pro-Russian opposition could get the most seats in parliament. The Concorde party has a co-operation contract with President Putin's party United Russia. And it voted against a motion in parliament to support Ukraine. Nils Ushakovs is its leader. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LEADER OF CONCORDE PARTY, NILS USHAKOVS, SAYING: "We have to use the Russian market, we have to deal with Russian tourists, we have to try to earn on being neighbours with Russia." But there's a growing fear of Russia in Latvia too. Some worry they could be Moscow's next target. That's led to many to embrace nationalist parties. The current coalition members are well aware of the risks to Latvia's new European focus. Solvita Aboltina is leader of the Unity Party. (SOUNDBITE) (Latvian) LEADER OF UNITY PARTY, SOLVITA ABOLTINA, SAYING: "There are those who are against everything, including a part of their own society. They see Latvia as a province of one big neighbouring country." Victory for the coalition would keep Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma in her job. Her predecessor resigned last year after the death of 53 people in a supermarket collapse in the capital Riga. Valdis Dombrovskis was always clear where his ambitions lay. He's now working in Brussels where he's set to become a Vice President in the new European Commission.

Press CTRL+C (Windows), CMD+C (Mac), or long-press the URL below on your mobile device to copy the code

Russia tensions influence Latvia vote

Friday, October 03, 2014 - 02:09