Three Latvian parties sign coalition deal to form government

HELSINKI (AP) — Three Latvian parties signed a deal Wednesday to form a coalition government more than two months after a general election in the Baltic country that was shaped by neighboring Russia’s war in Ukraine and economic woes.

The new Cabinet will be led by Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins’ ruling center-right New Unity party, which won the most votes, 19%, in the Oct. 1 general election. The junior partners will be the conservative National Alliance and the new centrist electoral alliance United List.

The parties pledged to direct the new government’s work to five areas in particular: Latvia’s security, education, energy, competitiveness and quality of life.

In a joint declaration, the parties stressed that the goal of the second government of Karins, who has been prime minister since 2019, is “the transformation of the economy” through polices that “provide security and prosperity to the people of Latvia.”

Latvia currently has one of the highest inflation rates within the European Union, with prices up 21.8% in November from the previous year, according to the country’s statistics bureau.

Latvia and its Baltic neighbors, Estonia and Lithuania, have been hit especially hard by the energy crisis due to their dependence on Russian gas before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

The three countries cut off natural gas deliveries from Russia earlier this year, and Latvia is now relying mainly on its own gas reserves and imports from Lithuania, though cross-border deliveries have dwindled in the past weeks amid a cold spell.

The parties together have 54 seats in Latvia’s 100-seat parliament, the Saeima, which still needs to approve the deal in a vote. Only seven parties or electoral alliances passed the 5% barrier in the election and secured representation in the legislature.

Most notably, none of the parties catering to Latvia’s sizable ethnic Russian minority, which makes up more than 25% of the country’s 1.9 million people, managed to secure a seat in the parliament.

Latvia has been a member of NATO and the EU since 2004.

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