General Elections Underway in Reccesion-hit LatviaWorld | October 2, 2010, Saturday // 14:26| views
The pro-Russian party Harmony Center is set to win seats in the Parliament for the first time since Latvia's independence from the former Soviet Union in 1990 due to discontent triggered by a deep economic recession. Photo by BGNES
Election polls opened Saturday morning in Latvia, in the first general elections after the economic crisis hit the country, leading to one of the worst recessions in the world.
Latest opinion polls show a tie between the center-right coalition "Unity" of current Prime Minister, Valdis Dombrovskis, and the left-wing opposition formation Harmony Center with 30 votes each of a 100 total in the Parliament.
Frustration with budget cuts and tax increases could help the pro-Russian party Harmony Center, which presents itself as a social-democratic alternative, to win seats in the Parliament for the first time since Latvia's independence from the former Soviet Union in 1990.
The Harmony Center enjoys strong support among the Russian speaking minority which is 27% of the 2.2 million people living in the former Soviet republic.
13 parties are running for parliamentary seats.
Official figures show that unemployment is still 20% while austerity measures have cut wages by up to 50%.
But the government's policies have impressed international lenders and the economy is more stable, BBC reports.
Investors see Dombrovskis as the main guarantor of an austerity deal that included a EUR 7.5 B bailout led by the International Monetary Fund and the EU.
Dombrovskis, who is also aiming to adopt the EUR as the national currency in 2014, took over as prime minister when the crisis was at its worst in 2009.
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