Zīle will be prime ministerial candidate in Latvia’s election but Ušakovs will not

Two politicians from opposite ends of Latvia’s political spectrum announced their plans with regard to forthcoming parliamentary elections May 21, reported LSM’s Latvian language service.
MEP Roberts Zīle of the right-oriented National Alliance confirmed he will be his party’s candidate for the position of prime minister in the elections to take place on October 6.

In contrast, Riga mayor Nils Ušakovs of the self-styled “social democratic” Harmony party said he will not be a PM candidate this time around.

Zīle has been an MEP since 2004 but previously served as Finance Minister and as a Saeima deputy.  He was also the NA’s PM candidate in 2014 when the party finished in fourth place and became part of a three-party coalition.

In contrast, high-profile Rīga mayor Ušakovs said during a heated debate of Riga City Council on Monday: “I will do everything to prevent my party from nominating me as prime minister,” though such is the party’s reliance upon him that such a statement does not entirely preclude them from putting him forward anyway.

Though the naming of PM candidates is not binding — indeed, PM candidates do not even have to take up seats in Saeima if they choose not to — it is important as the named candidates will take part in televized debates and can be expected to lead the pre-election campaigning effort.

Zīle is seen as a more moderate conservative than some of the out-and-out right-wingers in the National Alliance, while Harmony is extremely reliant upon Ušakovs’ slick presentational skills and relative youth to appeal to voters beyond its traditional ethnic Russian support base.

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