Latvian PM declares victory in election


Latvian Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis declared victory in a parliamentary election after a second exit poll gave his centre-right coalition a commanding lead in the vote.

Latvia joined the European Union in 2004 and if the result is confirmed, the government will be able to continue its pro-EU policies and drive to adopt the euro as soon as possible.

The Latvian TV poll, which confirmed an earlier exit poll, showed Kalvitis's ruling People's Party - and its partners the Greens, the Farmers Union and Latvia's First Party - had 43.3 per cent of the vote. Analysts said the result indicated those four parties would be likely to return to power with another party joining the coalition.

They said a strong possibility was that opposition centre-right party New Era, which according to the exit poll won 14.6 per cent of the vote, would join the government.

"The exit poll results show a victory for the coalition. It shows that the people have supported the existing government," Mr Kalvitis told Reuters. "Now we will have to wait for the final results. Then we will know whether or not we need to bring on an additional coalition partner to secure majority," he added.

Official results are expected to begin in the early hours of today with final results announced after lunch. Earlier, voting at a coastal town, Mr Kalvitis pledged to continue the government's market-orientated, low tax policies which have helped the ex-Soviet state become one of the EU's fastest-growing economies.

In the first half of 2006 GDP grew 12 per cent. If translated into seats, the exit poll result would win the coalition around 45 seats in the 100 seat parliament, compared with the 46 seats the minority coalition has now.