An ethnic Russian party has won parliamentary elections in Latvia for the first time in the post-Soviet history of the Baltic state dominated by anti-Russian politicians.

The Harmony Centre, a party committed to upholding the rights of the discriminated Russian minority in Latvia, received 28.5 per cent of the vote in the snap parliamentary poll on Saturday, about eight per cent more than the next best contestant.

The victory marks a milestone for the three Baltic republics, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, the only three ex-Soviet states that have joined NATO and the European Union. All three have embraced the so-called “occupation concept” and Latvia and Estonia have denied citizenship to ethnic Russian residents as “occupiers” or their descendants.

Non-citizens

In Latvia Russian speakers, who also include Ukrainians and Belarusians, account for a third of the 2.2 million population, but 345,000 of them are “non-citizens” who lack the right to vote.

The election victory will allow the Harmony Centre to increase its share of seats from 29 to 34 in the 102 member Latvian Seim, but its rivals are likely to shut it out of government. The Zatlers Reform Party led by a former President, and the Unity bloc of Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, which garnered just under 40 per cent of the votes between them, have already started talks on forming a coalition government.

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