What will the next Latvian government look like?

The latest parliamentary elections in Latvia took place on the 6th of October this year. Up until now the parties which managed to pass the threshold of 5% of the electoral votes and get into parliament are negotiating the structure of the new government. The Baltic country is torn between the Western and Eastern worlds; it is seeing the rise of nationalist and populist views. How will the future policies of Latvia look like?

The political landscape of Latvia is very dynamic: two of the parties represented in the parliament elected in 2014, For Latvia from the Heart (No sirds Latvijai) and the Latvian Association of Regions (Latvijas Reģionu apvienība), could not enter the new parliament in 2018, with the former not running for the elections and the latter falling behind the 5% threshold. At the same time three new political forces, New Conservative Party (Jaunā konservatīvā partija / JKP), liberal Movement For! (Kustība Par! / Par) and right-leaning Who owns the state? (Kam pieder valsts?/ KPV), won a higher support than any of the parties from the current governing coalition.

At the same time, the status of the parties that steadily participate in the political process has undergone significant changes. Unity (Vienotība / JV), the party that was empowered to form the government after 2014 elections, has lost electoral support considerably and showed the lowest results among parties that managed to secure seats in the new parliament of 2018. The Union of Greens and Farmers (Zaļo unZemnieku Savienība / ZZS) also suffers from a lack of trust: it was a member of the governing coalitions in most of the previously negotiated governments and is seen as being too flexible in choosing political allies, as well as blamed for corruption and inefficiency. The National Alliance (Nacionālāapvienība/ NA) and the pro-Russian Harmony (Saskaņa) have also lost a number of seats in parliament.

Furthermore, Saskana is not considered “coalitionable” by several other parties due to its pro-Russian stance. Well before the election, NA declared that it “will never support or join a government that involves” Harmony. The same is expected from JV and the JKP, which have many times publicly denounced the possibility of a coalition with Saskana. 

Currently, the parties are negotiating the structure and the head of the Latvian Cabinet of Ministers, with members of the JKP and KPV being the major candidates for the Prime Minister post. Based on the outcomes from the October election, and on the public commitments mentioned above, our analysis produces the following results.

Observe that all minimal winning coalitions (those that reach a majority with no redundant members) involve 4 partners, and must include both JKP and KPV.  

Furthermore, the most stable coalitions (according to the conditional Shapley value) in addition to JKP and KPV include either Par or ZZS (but not both), and either NA or JV (but not both).

If we based our forecast solely on the information available at the time of the election we could then conclude that either JKP or KPV is expected to lead the formation of the new government. Of those two parties, one would likely secure the prime minister seat (in our calculation we assume its worth to be roughly equivalent to 1/3 of the other ministerial seats) and three ministerial seats, with the other obtaining seven seats. Either NA or JV is expected to receive approximately two ministerial seats. Finally, Par or ZZS may expect to secure one seat.

It is worth mentioning that this type of power distribution would make it unlikely that Par could be interested in joining the coalition. The party has secured a notable level of electoral support and most likely would not be willing to invest its political capital in a government with such little level of influence. Therefore, based on the information at the time of the election the most likely governing coalition would appear to consist of JKP, KPV, ZZS, and either NA or JV depending on the negotiated agreement.

After the election, as the negotiation process among the Latvian parties started to unfold, several further public commitments (often falling short of official party policy) were made. In particular, several KPV representatives have publicly stated that they will not support a coalition with Saskana. Furthermore, KPV and JKP have signaled their reluctance to form a coalition with ZZS, blaming it for the shortcomings of the “old” political establishment.

If we also include those post-election announcements in our analysis, we obtain the following results.

Observe that now there are just three minimal winning coalitions (none of them involving ZZS), and they all appear equally stable.

In all three of those possible coalitions JKP and KPV are expected to receive an equal share of power,  with one of them obtaining the prime minister seat and two additional seats, and the other securing six seats. 

The remaining two coalition partners (chosen among NA, Par, and JV) are expected to share the remaining five ministerial seats.

Among the three predicted coalitions we consider the one composed of JKP, KPV, NA, and JV as politically most viable, as the parties included are closer to each other in terms of their overall agenda. By contrast, any coalition that includes both JKP and Par would likely carry higher internal tensions within the governing coalition.

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