Far-right vote startles Latvia

A German-born right-wing extremist who cannot speak Latvian won the second highest number of votes in the Baltic state's general election, causing political turmoil yesterday.

The startling success of Joachim Siegerist's People's Movement for Latvia caught all the country's mainstream parties unawares and appeared to have scotched chances for the formation of a stable governing coalition. Although he is unlikely to join any future coalition, Mr Siegerist's staunchly pro-Latvian views are certain to fan tensions with the country's ethnic Russian community of nearly one million people. His strong showing could also lead to a renewed bid from the far right to secure a tightening of Latvia's citizenship laws.

With nearly all the votes counted, the People's Movement for Latvia looked set to capture 15.06 per cent of the vote, only fractionally behind the centre-left Saimnieks party on 15.33 per cent. Third and fourth places went to the centrist Latvia's Way, which headed the outgoing government, and the far-right Freedom and Fatherland party.

A delighted Mr Siegerist, who is known to be linked with extreme right- wing organisations in Germany where he has been charged with inciting racial hatred, declared that he had fully expected the result, despite pre-election opinion polls indicating that he would win around 5 per cent.

His many critics, however, were dismayed. "The general reaction is one of utter shock," said Ilza Arklina, editor of the Riga-based Baltic Observer newspaper. "But many people are also ashamed that so many of their countrymen voted for Siegerist."

Although he was born and raised in Germany, Mr Siegerist claims Latvian citizenship through his father, who, he says, was a Latvian national who fought in the German Wehrmacht in the Second World War. Despite his inability to speak the language, he became involved in Latvian politics shortly after the country declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

In the 1993 election he ran on a right-wing ticket and won a place in the country's parliament after busing thousands of people out to vote for him in a rural constituency and doling out lemonade and bananas. He was later suspended from the parliament for poor attendance.

Apart from a virulent anti-Communism and a staunch Latvian nationalism, Mr Siegerist's real political goals remain unclear. But he has a populist touch: during the campaign he promised to help the country's poor, without ever spelling out how he would do it. In true right-wing style he also promised tough new measures on law and order.

Until this weekend's election, Mr Siegerist has always been a pariah as far as Latvia's mainstream political parties are concerned. His success in the polls, however, now makes the chances of a majority left- or right- leaning coalition very unlikely.

"The picture is extremely confusing," said Ms Arklina. "Some people are even suggesting that the best thing would be to simply hold another election."

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
News
peopleSwimmer also charged with crossing double land lines and excessive speeding
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style