Regional trends in electoral support for Latvian parties: the neighbourhood effect
The article analyses the neighbourhood effect in the voting behaviour of the Latvians at the four recent parliamentary elections, the ethnic and national leaning of parties considered. The study expands a set of electoral geography tools by adding modern techniques of spatial analysis as well as by increasing the knowledge on the position of the Russian speakers within Latvia’s political party landscape. The research aims to evaluate the role of the neighbourhood effect at Latvian elections and identify stable spatial voting clusters. The degree of spatial autocorrelation and changes in it were analysed for each parliamentary party and the non-parliamentary but still influential Latvian Russian Union (LRU). Statistically significant spatial clusters of high and low support were identified and compared; their steadiness over the study period was examined. The structure of these clusters is generally the same for the ‘Russian’ parties (Harmony and the LRU), whilst the ‘Latvian’ parties are characterized by greater spatial diversity. The analysis shows that regions bordering on Russia have clear spatial clusters where election results correspond to the parties’ attitudes towards Russian speakers and the Russian Federation. The ‘Russian’ parties and those more or less favourably disposed to Russian speakers (For a Good Latvia, For Latvia from the Heart) have clusters of high support in the area and the ‘Latvian’ parties of low. This pattern, however, may be due to the high proportion of the non-Latvian population in Latgale (a region with strong historical connections with Russia) and the character of the development of the border area, rather than to the proximity to the Russian border.
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