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Ballot box voting

First local elections after Latvian municipal reform mired by low turnout

First local elections after Latvian municipal reform mired by low turnout

In fact, this was the lowest turnout since independence from the USSR

On Saturday, 5 June, Latvian citizens headed to the polls to vote and elect their municipal leaders. These were the first local elections since a centralizing reform was passed by the country’s parliament in 2020 drastically reducing the number of municipalities by merging many of them.

Perhaps, the most newsworthy outcome of the ballot-casting result, however, was the exceptionally low turnout at the stations with a mere 34.09% of the electorate showing up to indicate a preference. This made the 2021 local elections the least attended in the modern history of the country since gaining sovereignty in 1991.

The lack of elections in the capital probably explains the dismal turnout

One of the most proposed explanations for the lack of excitement around local politics this year was probably the missing of the star player – the capital Riga. The City Council there had a tumultuous history in the last couple of years and so the elections there were already held last year resulting in something of a surprise winner.

Outside of the capital, Latvia tends to present more of a rural landscape given the smaller sizes of towns and this is best emphasized by the fact that a coalition called Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS) stands to grab the most municipalities, as many as 15, out of 40 on offer.

Altogether, three out of the four parties participating in the ruling national coalition can be said to have done reasonably well. Latvia's Development won in four municipalities, New Unity in three, and the National Alliance in three. The opposition party Harmony (Saskaņa) topped the poll in two districts.

Political analysts found it hard to draw hard conclusions from these results, something that is likely typical for mid-term elections. Some of the one-off alliances created to form a winning ticket seemed unusual and can reportedly lead to more political intrigues in the future.

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