The nationalist-populist movement in Europe, embodied by leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, has won yet another massive victory, this time in the Baltic state of Latvia.
Harmony, a pro-Russia center-left party, came in first place with 19.8% of the vote. Until recently, Harmony was a sister party of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, and supports ending ongoing EU sanctions on Latvia. Although it stands for a social-democratic ideology, it also promotes several socially conservative positions, in line with the generally conservative outlook of eastern Europe.
Even more important, however, was the party in second place: Who Owns The State?, a new, anti-EU, right-wing populist movement, which received 14.3% of the vote. The party is led by radio host Artuss Kaimiņš, a political outsider who has styled himself in the mold of U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a report by the New York Times. Together with Latvia’s more established nationalist party, the National Alliance, which came in 5th place, nationalist-populist parties received over 25% of the overall vote.
Establishment parties, on the other hand, floundered. Latvia’s centrist blocs, Unity and the Union of Greens and Farmers, which have dominated the country’s politics since its foundation, received less than a third and less than half of their respective results at the last election.
Some have speculated one of the populist parties could come to a coalition agreement with Harmony, allowing for the formation of an Italy-style anti-establishment Latvian government to challenge the ruling EU elites in Brussels. Alternatively, they could cut a deal with the center-right parties, and form a right-wing coalition more akin to those in Austria and Bulgaria. Either way, the results from Latvia show that nationalist-populist sentiment is still on the rise in Europe, and will likely make a major impact in next year’s pan-European elections.