RIGA - The recent combination of the religiously orientated Latvia's First Party and the economically liberal Latvia's Way has grown even larger. On Jan. 16, the coalition signed an agreement with four regional parties in an effort to build support before parliamentary elections are held in October.
Critics contend the unlikely coupling of religious conservatism and pro-market liberals is a marriage of convenience, not ideology.
However, by bringing in four new parties, the Religious Liberals reportedly won out over a number of larger parties like New Era and the Greens and Farmers' Union. The four new members are For Ogre's District Party, For Town and Region party from the Western city of Tukums, the Vidzeme Alliance in the North, and the For Our Region Party from Daugavpils in the East.
"There are a number of strong people who can contribute and help Latvia," head of Latvia's First Party Janis Lujans told journalists after the decision was announced.
The regional parties told the local media they hoped that working with the Liberals and Priests would bring investment to the countryside, which has largely been left out of the economic boom in Riga that has driven GDP growth into double digits.
Latvia's First, a political party stacked with priests, and Latvia's Way, a longtime political power, have both seen their popularity wane in recent years. Even together, the two will likely have trouble passing the five percent barrier needed to enter Parliament later this year. Latvia's First Party was instrumental in introducing an amendment to ban gay marriage that Parliament passed late last year. Many critics of the party have claimed that it has used the uproar surrounding last year's gay pride parade to gain votes.