* Parties to start coalition talks
* Ex-president and current PM aim to form core of new govt
* Russian minority hopes for say in administration
By Nerijus Adomaitis and Patrick Lannin
RIGA, Sept 18 Latvian politicians begin talks on
forming a new government on Sunday, after a party backed by the
large Russian minority won most votes in a snap election that
broke the power of business "oligarchs".
In second place was a new party formed by the ex-president,
who forced the vote in a corruption row less than a year after
the last election. Along with the third-placed party of current
Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, it aims to form the core of a
Russian minority party Harmony Centre, winning an election
for the first time in the ethnically-split Baltic nation, said
it should not be left out of the new administration.
"I am convinced that Latvian politicians ... will be able to
form a coalition where the interests of all voters are
represented," Harmony Centre leader Nils Usakov, 35, said on LNT
The president is responsible for nominating the prime
minister. He has said he will only do that after Sept. 28, when
he returns from a trip to the United States, giving the parties
time to come to an agreement on a coalition.
Results from 909 of 1,027 polling districts showed Harmony
Centre, which has portrayed itself as the sole centre-left
option, on 29.5 percent of the vote.
About a third of the 2.2 million population are Russian
speakers and just over half of them have the right to vote.
The party of former president Valdis Zatlers, whose decision
to dissolve parliament forced the election, was on 20.4 percent
and Dombrovskis's Unity had 18 percent.
LNT television said Harmony was set to win 32 seats, up from
29 in the October 2010 election, Zatlers's party 22 seats and
Unity 19. That would give the likely Zatlers and Dombrovskis
alliance 41 seats in the 100-seat parliament.
Analysts have said Dombrovskis and Zatlers could turn to a
nationalist party to form a majority. The initial results showed
the nationalist party would almost double its vote to about 13
The country has been split roughly along ethnic lines since
the fall of the Soviet Union, but Harmony aimed to attract
ethnic Latvian voters in the aftermath of a deep economic
Dombrovskis, who backs further fiscal austerity and wants to
take Latvia into the euro zone in 2014, said on LNT that he
would start a first round of talks with the Zatlers party on
Sunday as his first preference.
Harmony and other Latvian parties differ over historical
questions such as whether the country's 50 years under Soviet
rule was an "occupation".
Usakov was quoted by Latvian media as saying at a conference
on Friday that Latvia had been occupied.
On LNT, he said he was not "allergic" to the word
occupation, but did not want people to be labelled as
"occupiers", a word some ethnic Latvians use for
Russian-speakers who arrived in their country during Soviet
Harmony has been dogged by suspicions of Russian influence
due to its ties with the United Russia Party of Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin. Its economic policy of more social spending and
delaying euro adoption is also at odds with those of the main
Zatlers triggered the election by ordering the dissolution
of parliament after lawmakers refused to give permission for
prosecutors to search a flat owned by a businessman who is a
member of parliament and widely labelled an "oligarch".
Opponents say the MP and two others have used their wealth
to influence politics and favour their business interests. The
men have denied any wrongdoing.
Latvians overwhelmingly backed Zatlers' decision in a July
referendum. By then Zatlers had failed to be re-elected as
president by parliament, and he formed his own party.
Two of the three "oligarchs" are set to lose their places in
parliament, the vote showed, while a farmers' party spearheaded
by the third would have its representation cut to about 13 seats
from 22, according to the LNT estimate.
Dombrovskis, 40, led Latvia through a package of public
sector pay cuts, which saw some salaries reduced by 50 percent,
and higher taxes after a 2008 crisis forced the country to take
a 7.5 billion-euro international bailout. His Unity party won
the last election in October 2010 with 33 seats.
Dombrovskis says his policies have restored international
confidence in Latvia and brought about a recovery from an 18
percent drop in economic output in 2009.
(Editing by Andrew Roche)