RIGA – The opposition party For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK mustered 28.8 percent support in Saturday's European Parliament election, giving it four of Latvia's nine seats, in what is being described as a stunning victory for the country's nationalists.
Oppositionist New Era gained 19.6 percent, or two seats, giving the two traditional allies a total of six seats in the EP.
The other three seats in the European legislature will be occupied by leftist For Human Rights in a United Latvia (10.7 percent), the right-wing People's Party (6.6 percent) and liberal-leaning Latvia's Way (6.5 percent).
The election signified a major defeat for the ruling coalition, as neither the Greens and Farmers' Union (4.2 percent) nor Latvia's First Party (3.2 percent) earned a seat. Only coalition member People's Party managed to win a seat.
The National Harmony Party, which has cooperated with the minority coalition, had 4.8 percent of the vote.
In Latvia 16 different political lists including 245 candidates vied for the nine spots in the EP.
Other than For Fatherland and Freedom's remarkable support, the other surprise was the strong showing for Latvia's Way, a party that had been in power for a decade but fell out of favor with voters in the October 2002 parliamentary election. It is not represented in the country's current Parliament.
Likewise, only 5.4 percent of the electorate supported For Fatherland and Freedom in the 2002 elections.
Leading politicians were quick to put spin on the results. Former Prime Minister and New Era chief Einars Repse said the vote amounted to a no-confidence motion against the ruling coalition and that PM Indulis Emsis (the Greens and Farmers Union) should step down immediately.
However, another former prime minister, Guntars Krasts of For Fatherland and Freedom, said voters supported personalities in the EP election and did not cast their ballots in protest.
Analysts said that the nationality issue was the decisive one for most voters."I think people voted for the candidates experienced in European affairs and good professionals. In this respect the FF/LNNK list of candidates definitely stood out," political scientist Janis Ikstens told the Baltic News Service.
Another analyst, Valsts Kalnins, said that ethnic questions and "the Russian dimension," in particular the ruling coalition's willingness to work with leftists, naturally led to a stronger nationalist showing at the EP poll.