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News Analysis: Latvian president provides one week for parties to negotiate on new government

RIGA, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- Latvia's center-right coalition has formed a negotiation group to agree on the next government after securing a safe majority in parliament in last Saturday's general election.

The parliamentary election, however, was narrowly won by the opposition leftist pro-Russia Harmony party with 23.2 percent of the vote, but its chances of being taken into the new government appear to be slight, given that the three ruling parties have won 56 percent support between them.

The Unity party emerged as the runner-up in the election, winning 21.6 percent of the vote, Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS) came third with 19.7 percent and the National Alliance took fourth place winning 16.5 percent of the vote.

Two newcomers, the Latvian Bloc of Regions which unites Latvia's regional parties, and For Latvia from the Heart, a leftish party founded by former auditor-general Inguna Sudraba, have also won seats in Latvian parliament, the Saeima.

The negotiation group, which includes representatives of the center-right Unity party, the nationalist conservative National Alliance and the centrist ZZS, convened for its first meeting on Monday to tackle the most pressing issue, namely, whether to admit anyone else into the coalition.

Latvian President Andris Berzins, who is expected to name a prime minister-designate charged with forming the new government, has given political parties a week to negotiate the make-up of the new coalition.

Nils Usakovs, leader of the Harmony, said after his party scooped the victory in the election that the president should task the winner with forming the new government and that the Harmony would have no problems cooperating with anyone.

"We do not have problems cooperating with any political force, but some political forces have problems cooperating with us," the Harmony leader told BNS.

Harmony, which for a long time has been seen as a political party representing Latvia's large Russian-speaking minority, has worked hard lately to shift its focus from ethnic to social issues and to rebrand itself as a European social democratic party in hopes to attract more ethnic Latvian voters.

Although the Harmony has partly succeeded in this and won over quite a few ethnic Latvian votes in the previous election, the ruling center-right parties have remained suspicious of the opposition party, which has a partnership agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party and has refused to denounce Russia's policy vis-a-vis Ukraine.

In all, 13 political parties and electoral blocs competed for the 100 seats in Latvian parliament, the Saeima, in the general election on Saturday October 4.

Voter turnout in the parliamentary election reached 58.85 percent, according to the latests data from the Central Election Commission.

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