Ethnic Russians Protest as Latvia’s Parliament Convenes

Posted October 17th, 2011 at 7:25 am (UTC-5)
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At least 2,000 supporters protested as Latvia's new Parliament convened Monday, after their pro-Russian Harmony Center party was excluded from power in the new governing coalition.

The protestors blew horns, banged drums and waved banners decrying ethnic discrimination to voice their frustration over being shut out of the coalition government.

The center-left Harmony Center party has close ties to Russia and placed first in last month's snap election. But the party was kept out of a coalition agreement reached last week by three predominantly Latvian parties. About one-third of Latvia's 2.2 million population is comprised of ethnic Russians and minorities. No party catering to ethnic Russians and minorities has been included in Latvia's government in the 20 years since it became independent from Russia.

The coalition formed by Zatlers' Reform Party, the Unity movement and the National Alliance has already run into problems. Six lawmakers withdrew from the Zatlers' Reform Party on Sunday, leaving the coalition with just 50 of the 100 Parliament seats in the new government.

Latvian President Andris Berzins had been expected to name a government on Monday but held off, saying that all parties should reopen talks.