An exit poll shows Latvia’s centre-right New Unity party of Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins has won the most votes, capturing 22.5% of support.
Mr Karins currently leads a four-party minority coalition.
The poll also predicted that a new centrist party that favours green development – United List – would come second with 11.5%, while the opposition Greens and Farmers Union would come in third with 10.9%.
Support for parties catering to the country’s ethnic-Russian minority, who make up over 25% of Latvia’s 1.9 million people, is expected to be mixed.
Only eight parties are predicted to pass the 5% barrier and secure representation at the 100-seat Saeima legislature.
A total of 19 parties had more than 1,800 candidates running in the election. Official results are expected on Sunday morning.
Mr Karins, who became head of Latvia’s government in January 2019, currently leads a four-party minority coalition that along with New Unity includes the centre-right National Alliance, the centrist Development/For!, and the Conservatives.
The 57-year-old dual Latvian-US citizen born in Wilmington, Delaware, told Latvian media that it would be easiest to continue with the same coalition government if New Unity wins.
Support for parties catering to Latvia’s ethnic-Russian minority, who make up over 25% of Latvia’s 1.9 million people, is expected to be mixed; some loyal voters have abandoned them since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
This election is likely to be the death knell for the opposition Harmony party, whose popularity has steadily declined.
The Moscow-friendly party traditionally served as an umbrella for most of Latvia’s Russian-speaking voters, including Belarusians and Ukrainians. In the 2018 election, Harmony received almost 20% of the vote, the most of any single party, but was excluded by other parties from entering the government.
However, Harmony’s immediate and staunch opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine caused many voters who still back Russian President Vladimir Putin to desert it.
Those opposed to the war, meanwhile, tended to move toward Latvia’s mainstream parties, who condemned the invasion.
A recent poll by Latvian public broadcaster LSM showed Harmony trailing in fifth place with 5.1% support.
– The exit poll was carried out by the Riga Stradins University, the SKDSA research centre, the LETA newswire, Latvian Television and Latvian Radio.