Your Ultimate Guide to the 2018 Latvian Parliamentary Election

This October 6th, Latvian citizens throughout the country and overseas will be voting for a new Saeima (parliament). Aside from extraordinary circumstances in which a president dissolves the legislature, these elections take place every four years. This guide is intended to introduce people to how the election system works, and give a brief overview of each of the parties that will be competing in the election. For updates to this guide since its original publication, please skip to the end.

Part I: Latvia's Political System


Latvia’s parliament, or Saeima, consists of 100 deputies elected from five different electoral districts. In this election, 35 deputies will be elected from the city of Riga (which includes overseas voters), 25 from Vidzeme (which includes the cities of Jūrmala, Valmiera, and most of northern Latvia), 14 from Latgale (which includes the cities of Daugavpils, Rezekne, and most of eastern Latvia), 14 from Zemgale (which includes the cities of Jelgava, Jēkabpils, and most of southern Latvia) and 12 from Kurzeme (which includes the cities of Liepāja, Ventspils, and most of western Latvia).

Latvia's five electoral districts, based on traditional cultural regions

Seats in each region are then divided among the parties using the Webster/Sainte-Languë method, the result being that the percent of votes a party gets from each region corresponds with the amount of seats that they get from each region. There’s one catch though; a party must get at least 5% of the vote nationwide to earn any seats in any region. This means that a party that gets only 4.99% of the vote does not make it into parliament. For example, let's take a look at the results of the 2014 election:

Results of the 2014 parliamentary election

Now, let's see how the seats were allocated after the election:

Composition of Saeima after the 2014 elections

When voters go into the voting precinct, they will be given an envelope full of sixteen different ballots, one for each party. A voter can only pick one of the ballots to put in the ballot box, and the others are thrown away. This means that a voter can’t pick a few names from one party and a few names from another; however, they are given a bit of power to make choices about individual names. Political parties that take part in the election must make a list of candidates for each individual region, with the names listed highest making it into Saeima if the party gets enough votes. This means that if a party wins ten seats, then the ten names listed highest get into Saeima.
2014 election ballots
However, if a voter strongly dislikes any people on the list, they can cross their name out. If enough voters cross a person’s name out, that person does not make it into parliament. This infamously happened last election when one of Vienotība’s top leaders, Solvita Āboltiņa, was “struck off” the list and wasn't re-elected as a deputy, only for a lower-level MP to resign the week after the election and allow her to take his place.

Former Vienotība leader Solvita Aboltiņa

Aboltiņa at the time had been serving as “Saeimas priekšsēdētājs” (Speaker of the Saeima), a position similar to the “Speaker of the House” in the United States House of Representatives. The speaker oversees sessions of Saeima, is a member of the national security council, and even takes over the president's duties if they are incapacitated or away from the country. Like in America, members of Saeima elect the speaker.

The Government (cabinet) 

Once the election ends and all of the seats have been allocated to the different parties and the deputies from the parties’ lists have been finalized, it’s time for the critical and messy process of forming a government (or cabinet). While Americans are used to the candidate who gets the most overall votes winning the election (such as a governor winning with only 38% of the vote), this isn’t at all the case in parliamentary systems such as Latvia’s. Unless a party wins more than 50 seats in Saeima, something that hasn’t happened in Latvia’s entire history, a “coalition” must be formed from different parties that altogether have enough votes to form a majority in Saeima. For example, “Saskaņa” has been the single largest party in parliament since 2011, but they have only 24 seats of their own and other parties refuse to form a coalition with them due to their former cooperation agreement with Vladimir Putin’s “United Russia” party as well as their support for Russian as an official second language and unconditional citizenship for all Soviet migrants. That means that the second-place party, “Vienotība” (23 seats) formed a coalition after the last election with the third place “Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība” (21 seats) and the fourth place Nacionālā apvienība (17 seats) with 5, 5 and 3 ministerships going to the parties respectively.

Composition of the Second Straujuma Cabinet, formed after the 2014 election

The ministries have significant power to set and change the country's rules and regulations, although the government can be dismissed at any time by a “vote of no confidence” by Saeima that will lead to a new coalition being negotiated, and possibly new elections. A government can also be dissolved by the president, speaking of which…

The President 

The President of Latvia is a role more similar to the Queen of England, the Emperor of Japan, or the President of Germany than to the powerful presidents of the United States, Mexico or France. Traditionally the president wasn't expected to take part much in day-to-day politics or the setting of policy, but since the time of President Vaira Viķe-Freiberga they have had an increased role in day-to-day politics. The president has power to delay the signing of legislation so that Saeima is encouraged to rework it, is the commander in chief of the armed forces during peace time, and even has the ability to ask for the prime minister's resignation or to trigger a national referendum on whether there should be early elections. The second option was dramatically taken for the first time in Latvian history by President Valdis Zatlers in 2011 when Saeima refused to approve a search of oligarch and Saeima member Ainārs Šlesers' house. Voters overwhelmingly chose to hold new elections, but Saeima voted not to give Zatlers a second term in office. 

Former President Valdis Zatlers

This brings up an important point — Saeima itself votes for the president every four years in the spring after the parliamentary election, traditionally a compromise candidate who is outside of the current political scene. This means that either current President Raimonds Vējonis will receive another term in office, or a new president will be chosen in about 10 months from now. The current voting system happens under a “secret ballot,” but Saeima has recently voted to switch to an open ballot like all of the other things that parliament has to vote on.

Part II: Latvian Politics 

Party Lines 

Politics in Latvia are divided less on ideological grounds, such as the conservative Republicans and the liberal Democrats in the US, than they are ethnically. Around 30% of Latvia’s population is either ethnically Russian or speak Russian as their first language at home, and more than 10% of the population are migrants who came from other parts of the Soviet Union between 1940 and 1990 and have the status of “non-citizen.” 

"Citizen" and "Non-citizen" passports
These “non-citizens” have virtually all of the rights of citizens aside from being able to vote in national elections, but they must be able to pass a B1-level Latvian language test and a history/civics test to gain full citizenship. One of the questions on the test is the emotional issue of whether or not Latvia was illegally occupied by the Soviet Union, something firmly believed by virtually all ethnic Latvians but rejected by the Russian government and disputed in Russian-language Latvian media. The issues of whether or not Russian should be a second official state language, whether Russian should be used as a language of instruction in public schools, and whether all Soviet migrants should be given unconditional citizenship have been the strongest dividing political lines since the restoration of independence, although the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia has become another bone of contention. 

Proportion of Latvians and Russians in Latvia from 1920 to 2015

When it comes to other major issues, such as the economy, health care, and education policy, the major parties have traditionally been quite centrist and don’t generally implement radical new ideology-based policy overhauls when taking over the government in the way that the Republicans/Democrats generally do in America or Labour/the Tories do in the United Kingdom. Latvia is generally socially conservative, with issues like gay marriage or trans rights barely appearing on the radar and the Archbishop of Riga successfully convincing enough parties in Saeima to defeat the ratification of the Istanbul Convention against domestic violence this spring. Parties with strong anti-corruption platforms have generally been successful in elections but have had a difficult time delivering concrete results that have satisfied voters. While there are a number of parties advocating leaving the EU or even NATO, none of these parties are expected to get anywhere near enough votes to get into parliament.

Political Instability 

Since the restoration of independence in 1990, a staggering thirteen separate people have served as prime minister, an average of a completely new person every 26 months. For comparison, in that time there have been only seven taoisigh of Ireland and prime ministers of Australia, six prime ministers of the UK (including the last six months of Thatcher) and prime ministers of Canada (including the four months of Kim Campbell), five presidents of the United States (including the last eight months of the first Bush) and presidents of France, and just three chancellors of Germany. By October, there will have been an eye-watering 21 different cabinets with an average lifespan of only 16 months each. 

Prime Ministers of Latvia since 1990
This instability has applied to political parties themselves as well. An average of 17 parties have taken part in each of the nine Saeima elections that have happened since the restoration of independence in 1991. These parties have been in a state of constant flux, with smaller parties merging or joining together with other ones, factions from one party starting their own new parties, and members from a failing party abandoning ship and joining other parties en masse. To put it more concretely, there isn’t a single party that took part in the 1998 election that is on the current ballot in the same form that it was then, just 20 years back.

Now that we have an idea about the general political situation in Latvia, let’s take a look at the different parties taking part in this election, starting with ones in the current governing coalition and Saeima opposition.

Part III: 2018 Election Contenders 

The Government: 

“Vienotība” - The leader of the coalition formed after the most recent election has been in a catastrophic free fall since 2014. Although their party name ironically translates to “unity” in English, the last four years have been marked by incessant infighting between factions within the party as well as one public relation disaster after another. These have included former party leader Solvita Aboltiņa heckling protesting pensioners and the government approving salary raises for themselves the same day as a teacher’s strike. 

While the former led to numerous YouTube parody videos, the latter incident was the final straw that led to Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma’s resignation. Since the party was so divided at the time that they couldn’t agree on a replacement, Maris Kučinskis from their partner party Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība took over as prime minister instead. Members have been steadily abandoning the party despite leaders adding “Jaunā” (“The new”) to the name, a move that smells of a desperation. July polls suggested that “Jaunā Vienotība” would not gain the 5% of the vote required to be included in parliament, but the most recent data suggests that they could hold on as the smallest party in Saeima. This election, the party is being led by current economics minister Arvils Ašeradens. 

Major campaign promises: improved education system, more affordable and high-quality health care, affordable housing for young families, popular election of president, publishing of KGB archives, less bureaucracy, green energy (read more here)

“Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība” - This “Union of Greens and Farmers” is a coalition formed in 2002 by Latvia’s green party, Latvia’s farmer’s union, and regional parties from Liepāja and Ventspils. Despite the “green” in its name and its membership in the “European Green Party” and “Global Greens,” the party is politically center-right. This spring party leaders were convinced by the Archbishop of Riga to reject the Istanbul Convention to prevent domestic violence on the grounds that it would “redefine gender roles,” and the party is currently working to end Latvia’s unpopular green energy subsidy program; Jill Stein or Caroline Lucas-style “greens” they aren’t. Their representation of farmers’ interests means that they have generally been most successful in Latvia’s rural areas, although they also control municipal governments in Leipāja, Jelgava, Jūrmala, Ventspils, and other smaller cities throughout the country. 

2014 parliamentary election results by region: dark green = ZZS, light green = Vienotība, red = Saskaņa, yellow = NA

Party members Raimonds Vējonis and Maris Kučinskis currently serve as president and prime minister of Latvia respectively, but the major force behind the party is controversial oligarch and mayor of Ventspils since 1988 Aivars Lembergs, who has been the subject of investigations for a variety of white collar crimes and corruption for at least a decade. Lembergs served time under house arrest and is technically legally blocked from serving as mayor due to his alleged criminal activities, but continues to be active in politics.

Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs
For this reason, various parties have pledged over the past ten years not to work with ZZS, but its relatively stable voter base has allowed it to win between 12 and 22 seats in each of the elections and participate in 10 of the last 11 governments. According to current polling, ZZS is set to come in second place and party leader Kučinskis is likely to continue as prime minister overseeing a hodgepodge coalition of different parties. 

Major campaign promises: More affordable housing and kindergartens for young families, improvement of health care system, gradual increase of pensions, creation of well-paying jobs, balanced budgets, improvements to transport infrastructure, more funding to military and law enforcement (read more here)

“Nacionālā apvienība” - The “National Alliance” is a right-wing nationalist party founded in 2011 through the merger of various smaller nationalist factions, and it has participated in every governing coalition since its creation. The party’s most important issues concern language and citizenship, which is why the government is in the early stages of phasing out Russian-language education in public schools, an extremely controversial and emotional issue which has already led to protests. The party also runs various nationalist events, such as the controversial Legionnaire remembrance day in March and the less controversial 18th of November torch march through the center of Rīga to celebrate Latvian independence day. Today it holds 17 seats in Saeima and will be led in this election by current European Parliament member Roberts Zīle. Current projections have the party with about 10% of the vote and most likely remaining in government.

Major campaign promises: Transition to use of only Latvian language in all levels of public education, competence-based education, limits to immigration, promotion of Latgalian culture, strengthening society against Russian influence, strengthening EU and NATO, more affordable housing for families, fair property tax system (read more here

The Opposition: 

“Saskaņa” (Harmony) - As mentioned previously, this “social democratic party” established in 2010 through the merger of various pro-minority rights and leftist parties is currently the largest single faction in Saeima with 23 seats. Most other parties have once again sworn against forming a governing coalition with them even though the controversial “cooperation agreement” signed with Vladamir Putin’s “United Russia” party expired in 2015 and their currently platform makes no mention of language or citizenship issues. The party has traditionally enjoyed strong support from Latvia’s Russian-speaking minority groups, and governs cities with high proportions of Russian-speaking population such as Rīga and Rezekne. Despite the “social democratic” title, the party is quite socially conservative. Former education minister Vjačeslavs Dombrovskis is leading the party in this election, although the highest profile party member remains mayor of Riga since 2009 Nils Ušakovs. 

Major campaign promises: Improved health care, strengthening of families, better jobs, ethnic harmony, Latvian political and economic independence, modernization of armed forces (read more here)

“Latvijas Reģionu apvienība” - The “Latvian Association of Regions” was founded a few months before the previous election as a coalition of various smaller regional parties as well as the LSDSP and the Christian Democratic Union (more on them later). Despite winning 8 seats in the previous election and former party leader Martiņš Bondars coming inches away from winning enough seats in the Riga municipal election last spring to be able to form a coalition of non-Saskaņa parties and become mayor, the party has failed to generate much enthusiasm nationally. Its regionalism and centrist politics are already practiced by a variety of other parties, and Bondars has been under increased scrutiny since the municipal election over his role as president of the fraud-ridden Latvijas Krajbanka (Latvian savings bank), the 2011 collapse of which has led to various criminal investigations. Bondars has since joined former partner party “Attīstībai/Par!” and LRA is expected to gain only 2% of the vote and not make it into Saeima this time around. 

Major campaign promises: State aid and better public transit for less developed regions, improvements to roads, improvements to health care and education, support to small and medium-sized farms, transparent and less bureaucratic government, lower taxes, strengthening EU and NATO, popular election of president, publishing of KGB archives (read more here)

“No sirds Latvijai” (To Latvia from the Heart) - A conservative party founded in 2014 by former state auditor Inguna Sudraba, NSL currently has seven seats in Saeima but does not participate in the current government. Like LRA, they haven’t been able to successfully differentiate themselves over the past few years from other center-right and conservative factions, and party leader Sudraba has seen her political stock tumble after being appointed chair of an corruption investigation that she was personally implicated in, as well as being denied security clearance due to alleged ties to Russia. As of recent polling, the party is expected to get about 3% of the vote and not make it into the 13th Saeima.

Major campaign promises: Improvements to bureaucracy, popularly elected president, better justice system, promotion of patriotism, better tax system, improved meritocracy, protection of cultural heritage, improved management of economy, promotion of credit unions, increased energy independence, modernization of education system (read more here)

Up and Coming Parties: 

“KPV LV” - Of all of the new parties in this election, “Kam pieder valsts?” (Who owns the state?) has certainly been the most talked-about. Formed by current Saeima deputy and former actor Artuss Kaimiņš after he left LRA in 2016, the populist conservative party calls for radical restructuring of the Latvian government and public institutions. The faction seems to have gained a boost in the polls since Kaimiņš’ arrest in June for misusing party funds for his radio talk show, and polls throughout the summer have them in third place with as many as 14 of Saeima's 100 seats. Most interestingly, KPV LV has refused to categorically promise not to form a government with Saskaņa as other major parties routinely do. Whether or not Saskaņa and KPV LV would actually form a cabinet together (or if they will even have enough seats to) is anyone’s guess, but KPV LV is certainly turning heads and making this election more uncertain than usual. 
Actor, radio host and Saeima member Artuss Kaimiņš, leader of KPV LV
Despite Kaimiņš’ party leadership, lawyer Aldis Gobzems is the party’s prime minister candidate this time around. Gobzems and Kaimiņš have styled their campaign after Donald Trump’s successful 2016 presidential bid, making aggressive accusations against the current political establishment and promoting various conspiracy theories. Much of their venom has been focused on the “coalition council,” an informal discussion group between members of the governing coalition parties which they believe simply delivers orders to the cabinet and Saeima, thereby circumventing the constitution. 

Major campaign promises: Liquidation of the coalition council, elimination of half of the ministries, switching to a “secretariat” model of government, kindergarten in Latvian language for all children, free public university for all Latvians, consolidation of universities, improved health care, more affordable medicine, improved pensions, tax reform, more independent judicial system (read more here)

“Attīstībai/Par!” - This ticket is a union of the formerly “classical liberal” center-right “Latvijas Attistibai” (For Latvia’s development) party founded in 2013 and the center-left “Par!” (For!) party founded in 2017. Until recently, “Latvijas Attistibai” would have been comparable to the libertarian wing of the American Republican party, though they have adopted a pro-human rights focus and massive spending plan coming into this election. In joining forces with “Par!”, the alliance aims to fill the center left void left by Vienotība’s rapid implosion. The party is being led in this election by current European parliament member and former defense minister Artis Pabriks, who as a member of “Vienotība” came inches away from the role of prime minister in 2014 when Valdis Dombrovskis resigned in wake of the 2013 Maxima tragedy. Polls throughout much of the year had them projected to win about 7% of the vote and included in Saeima, but more recent data has had them just short of the 5% needed for inclusion. Of all of the parties, they have the most extensive and lengthy party program, but commentators are skeptical that it would be possible to actually enact most of these promises. Critics are also have questioned their (and other parties') heavy use of GDP percentages, since the actual percentages of budget would be much higher.

Major campaign promises: More affordable health care, increased funding for health care (10% of GDP), treatment for substance addiction, compulsory secondary education, transition to all public education in Latvian, increased teachers' salaries, strengthening of anti-corruption bureau, increased funding to NGOs, more citizen's initiatives, introduce a “minimum income level”-based welfare system, improved health care and pensions for seniors, modern economics policy, development plan for rural regions, reduction of shadow economy, tax increase to 35% of GDP, more business friendly environment, flat microenterprise tax, more open and better-managed bureaucracy, more “green” transport, more competition in bids for transport projects, realization of Rail Baltic program, more support of green energy, independence from Russian natural gas, sustainable use of resources, more measures to fight climate change, eco-friendly forestry and agriculture, increased funding for culture, better sports infrastructure, ratification of the Istanbul convention, recognization of same-sex unions, more support for re-immigration programs, automatic citizenship for all children born in Latvia, 1% of GDP for science and technology research funding, more funding for public media, support for a unified Eurozone budget, increased defense spending (read more here)

“Jaunā konservatīvā partija” - The “New Conservative Party” is a center-right party founded in 2014 just before the previous elections and led in this election by former justice minister Jānis Bordāns. Although it failed to make a splash (or win any seats) in the 2014 elections, it has gained some attention as an anti-corruption party since former state anti-corruption bureau head Juta Strīķe joined last spring and found some success in the June 2017 municipal elections. Campaign promises to significantly increase public spending, minimum wage, and public employee's salaries don't quite line up with the American or British ideals of “conservatism,” and their centrist platform sees them competing with “Attistibai/Pār!” to fill the vacuum left by Vienotība. Although they had been projected until recently to win about 6% of the vote and be included as a minor party in Saeima, most recent polling has had them on the outside of the 5% barrier looking in.

Major campaign promises: Consolidation of all current ministries into just 8, term limits for public administrators, state control of large ports, stringent fight against corruption, increases in minimum wage, end to public energy subsidies, natural gas independence from Russia, increased public doctor's wages, increase of education spending to 1.5% of GDP, permanent 2% of GDP spending on military, strengthening of EU and NATO (read more here)

The Others 

The following parties are also included on the ballot, but are unlikely to make it into the 13th Saeima: 

“Latvijas Krievu savienība” (Latvian Russian Union), a minority rights party founded in 1998 whose major issues include official status of Russian and Latgalian languages and unconditional granting of citizen status to all “citizens of the former Soviet Union” with grey passports. LKS is a bit like the inverse “Nacionālā apvienība” — they fully support the Russian government's stance that Latvia was never illegally occupied by the Soviet Union, and also organize protests to Nacionālā apvienība's yearly Legionnaire remembrance day parade. Although the party won 25 seats in the 2002 election, Saskaņa has more or less usurped them as the most popular party among the Russian-speaking minority. They will be led in this election by former TV/radio host and current European Parliament member Andrejs Mamikins. 
UPDATE: Courts decided on August 21 that Vidzeme region party leader and former member of European Parliament Tatjana Ždanoka would be barred from seeking election. Ždanoka had been one of the most pro-Kremlin deputies in Brussels, and has complained that the Russian minority in Latvia suffer significant oppression. Read more here at LSM.

“LSDSP/KDS/GKL” (Latvian Social Democratic Worker’s Party/Christian Democratic Union/ Honor to Serve Latvia) is an alliance led by LSDSP, a worker’s party originally established in 1904 (14 years before the Latvian state itself) which famed Latvian poet Rainis belonged to. Although they are mostly unrelated to the Communist Party that governed Latvia during Soviet times, much of the Latvian population remains skeptical of their platform. They participated in the last election with LRA, but this time their ticket includes the “Christian Democratic” KDS party and “Gods kalpot mūsu Latvijai,” a socially conservative Christian nationalist party. This bloc will be led by Latvian Social Economic Institute director Armands Agrums, and is not expected to be a significant factor in this election. 

“Rīcības partija” (Action Party), a traditional hard Eurosceptic party founded in 1998 and led in this election by former Saeima member Igors Meļņikovs. The party made a big fuss this spring about the Baltic Pride LGBT parade that took place in Rīga, but it doesn't look like the media attention they gained will be enough to win the required 5% to be included in Saeima. “Progresīvie” (The Progressives), a Nordic-style progressive social democratic party founded last February which will be led in this election by former culture ministry media politics director Roberts Putnis. The party turned heads earlier this summer by choosing women to lead the candidate lists in each of the five electoral regions, and aim to increase awareness about various progressive issues such as women's rights that they believe are ignored by mainstream parties. 

“Latviešu nacionālisti” (Latvian Nationalists), an extreme far-right populist faction led by dermatovenerologist Andris Rubens. Their party logo includes the “perkonkrusts” (thunder cross), a swastika that has been used in Latvian folk art for thousands of years, but... well, there are a variety of other Latvian folk symbols they could have chosen. 

“Par alternatīvu” (For an alternative), another far-right populist party that advocates exiting the euro and includes a “Russia Today” journalist on their candidate list. They also wish to cancel sanctions against Russia and re-introduce the death penalty. 

“Latvijas Centriskā partija” (Latvia-Centric Party), another hard Eurosceptic party which wants to immediately leave all international military organizations and turn to an isolationist foreign policy, founded this year and led by former “Suverenitate” party leader Andžejs Zdanovičs. They have neither a website nor a party logo. 

That's all for now. I will update this with more recent SKDS polling information when that becomes available or any major stories break that change the information here, but I hope that this has been a useful introduction to the Latvian election. Keep checking back to Latvia Weekly each week for more on the election.

UPDATE #1: I want to be clear that I do NOT support any particular party, and this guide is meant only to give an overview of who they are and what they stand for.

UPDATE #2: The section about Latvijas Krievu savienība has been updated with breaking news about Vidzemes region party leader Tatjana Ždanoka being banned from seeking election. (22 August, 2018)

UPDATE #3: The political party summary sections of this guide have been updated with data released on August 23rd based on a SKDS poll commissioned by LSM that was conducted at the beginning of August. If you haven't read the guide itself yet, please come back to this here section later, otherwise it will not make much sense.

According to the polling data released on August 23rd, if the election had been held at the beginning of August, five parties would be included in Saeima:

Saskaņa: 21.5% (+0.1% since July)
Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība: 11.5% (-0.9% since July)
KPV LV: 7.5% (+0.5% since July)
Nacionālā apvienība: 6.1% (-0.7% since July)
Jaunā vienotība: 5.1% (+2.2% since July)
Attīstībai/Pār!: 3.1% (-1.3% since July)
Jaunā konservatīva partija: 2.9% (-1% since July)
Latvijas reģionu apvienība: 2.9% (+1.8% since July)
No sirds Latvijai: 1.8% (-0.1% since July)
Latvijas krievu savienība: 1.2% (+0.4% since July)
Progresīvie: 0.9% (no change since July)
Other parties: 0.5%
Still not sure: 23%
Will not participate in the election: 12%

If the "still not sure" and "will not participate" are taken out of the equation, that means that five parties would clear the 5% hurdle required for inclusion in parliament, and the composition of the 13th Saeima would look like this:

  1. Saskaņa: 42 seats (+18 since last election)
  2. Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība: 22 seats (+1 since last election)
  3. KPV LV: 14 seats (+13since last election)
  4. Nacionālā apvienība: 12 seats (-5 since last election)
  5. Jaunā Vienotība: 10 seats (-13 since last election)
*KPV LV's only member in parliament, Artuss Kaimiņš, was elected in 2014 as a member of Latvijas reģionu apvienība before quitting the party and starting his own faction.

There are a few very important takeaways from this information:

  • Overall, there were very few statistically significant changes at the top, with the only major developments happening with parties around the 5% mark (after taking away "still don't know" and "won't participate" answers). It looks like the ratings have more or less stabilized, and barring jaw-dropping developments or a massive trend of "still don't know" voters toward one particular party, this probably gives us a pretty clear idea of what we can expect in October. Which leads to the very important next point...
  • KPV LV is here to stay. Anyone who thought that their third place finish just above Nacionālā apvienība in the July poll was simply an anomaly should be silenced by the new data which has them widening their lead above NA and even gaining on second place and party of the current Prime Minister Kučinskis and President Vējonis "Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība." Although a lot could still change before election day, it's looking increasingly certain that firebrand Artuss Kaimiņš' populist party will be a significant player in Latvian politics for the foreseeable future one way or another.
  • Unlike other major parties that have openly announced that they refuse to work in a coalition government with Saskaņa due to their perceived ties with the Putin government, KPV LV has refused to make any categorical statement on this possibility. Well, at least according to this data, the two parties would theoretically have a combined 62 seats, more than enough to form a coalition government together. This doesn't mean that the two necessarily would, but it would be at least mathematically possible.
  • While all three parties in the current coalition (Vienotība, ZZS, and NA) are projected to remain in parliament based on this data, they would no longer have enough seats to form a coalition government together. No matter what, any of the parties would have to work with either Saskaņa or KPV LV, which will likely make formation of this next government one of the messiest in Latvian history. 
  • Speaking of the current coalition — reports of current coalition leader (Jaunā) Vienotība's impending death (including by your's truly) seem as if they might have been a bit premature. Although only 10 seats in Saeima this time around would still be a massive fall from grace considering that they have led the government for eight years, it's still much better than being eliminated from parliament altogether as last month's polling data seemed to suggest. Even more, the nearly doubling of their polling results comes after the much discussed promotion to ambassador to Italy of notoriously unpopular former party leader Solvita Aboltiņa. Suddenly, Vienotība's potential comeback has become one of the most unexpected storylines in an already extraordinary election.
  • Another surprising comeback — Latvijas reģionu apvienība somehow managed to nearly triple their results since  July. Of course that's not particularly hard if you're starting at only 1.1% of the vote, but it's interesting that they and Vienotība have seen by far the most statistically significant trends upwards out of all of the parties.
  • Current Saeima participants LRA's and Jaunā Vienotība's gain is Jauna konservatīva partija's and Attistibai/Pār!'s loss. Both parties had been looking to fill the Vienotība-sized centrist void that has existed since the coalition leader's rapid collapse, so it's fitting that Vienotība's bump above the 5% inclusion barrier has come at the expense of their potential exclusion from Saeima. Their fall in popularity comes as a bit of a surprise, but they along with LRA are still within inches of inclusion in Saeima and it's far too early to count any of these four parties in or out.
  • That being said, we can probably pretty safely count out Inguna Sudraba's "No Sirds Latvijai" which has been on life support since their surprisingly strong results in 2014 which saw them win seven seats in Saeima. While Latvijas Krievu savienība did make gains compared to last month, it still remains unlikely that they'll make it into parliament this time around. It also seems that Latvia isn't ready to take the Progresīvie seriously, as they remain unchanged at 0.9%.
  • Now for the million dollar (Euro? Lat?) question — how will the almost 1/4 of respondents who chose "still not sure" vote on October 6th? Although on one hand you could project that many will end up pulling for the incumbent ZZS since there haven't been any major 2008-esque crises and they've done a decent job of projecting the image of stability and competence, the general trend throughout Europe and much of the world has been towards populism, or at least some sort of change. Whether this will translate into more votes for Saskaņa and KPV LV remains to be seen, but the previously "unthinkable" prospect of a Saskaņa-led government is closer than probably ever before.
All this being said, it's a bit harder to draw strong conclusions from polling data here than it is in the US, Germany, France, or other countries where there are multiple agencies publishing data on a more regular basis. It bears repeating that though published on the the 24th of August, the data was collected at the beginning of August and does not necessarily reflect how people feel now. In any case, I will continue to update the guide with more current polling data whenever it becomes available, and write another of these analyses if enough has changed.

UPDATE #4: Election Update! A new poll released on September 10th commissioned by TV3 and carried out by the Norstat firm has Jaunā konservatīva partija (The New Conservative Party) pulling into third place with 6.9%, ahead of Artuss Kaimiņš' populist upstart KPV LV party with 6.6% and current coalition partner Nacionālā apvienība (National Alliance) with 5.9%. This is a significant improvement in Jaunā konservatīva partija's ratings compared with a Latvian Public Media (LSM) commissioned poll by the SKDS group from the beginning of August which had the party in seventh place with just 2.9%, although it is likely that the two polling firms use different methodology. Like the August LSM/SKDS poll, the traditionally Kremlin-friendly Saskaņa party was in first place (14.9%), and of current Prime Minister Maris Kučinskis and President Raimonds Vējonis Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība (Union of Greens and Farmers) remained in second place (9.0%) The largest takeaway from this poll, however, should be that a stunning 37.6% indicated that they still hadn't made up their mind about the election, a massive block of voters who should make a significant difference in the weeks leading up to the election.

Saskaņa – 14.9%
Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība – 9.0 %
Jaunā konservatīva partija – 6.9 %
KPV LV – 6.6%
Nacionālā apvienība – 5,.%
Attistibai/Par! – 4.5%
Jaunā Vienotība – 3.3%
Latvijas Krievu savienība – 1.8%
Latvijas reģionu apvienība – 0.9%
Progresīvie – 0.9%
"Still don't know" – 37.6%
"Will not vote" – 5.4%
Other parties – <1%