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Coming Lithuanian elections

by das monde Sun Oct 12th, 2008 at 10:09:14 AM EST

I was asked once to post a diary on Lithuanian parties. This week is a fitting opportunity, as Lithuania has Parliamentary elections this Sunday (October 12), and I was most of the last 2-3 weeks there. The later factor didn't help much to feel a better insider, but... political detachment is an obvious part of modern social environment, visibly convenient for the political classes as well.

Voting now underway, until 20h local time = 19h CET. Promoted by DoDo

Update [2008-10-12 13:40:8 by DoDo]: now with results.

Update [2008-10-13 12:40:0 (LT) by das monde]: Here are preliminary results of nationwide party voting (for 70 seats). 2007 out of 2034 districts reporting.

Voter participation - 1278989 (48.42%). Non-valid votes - 71747 (5.61%). The 5% barrier (derived from the number of all participating voters) is 63950. The last column gives (preliminary) numbers of candidates in run-off elections two weeks later in individual constituencies. Three individual mandates are already won.
PartyVotesPercentageRun-Off chances
of valid votesSeats Likely + Toss-up + Underdog
Homeland Union - Christian Democrats 23607119.551716+18+11
Social Democrats 14191711.7611+2 7+12+5
Order And Justice (Rolandas Paksas) 15363912.7311 3+8+5
Rising Nation Party (Arūnas Valinskas, LNK TV)18243915.1113 0+3+6
Darbo Partija (Labour Party) 1091069.048 1+4+0
Lith. Rep. Liberal Movement (without Zuokas) 685915.685 3+3+3
The Liberal and Center Union (with Zuokas) 641795.325 0+7+3
The Polish minority party 586354.860+1 2+2+0
Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union (Prunskienė) 449653.7201+4+1
Social Liberals 440783.6501+0+0
"Frontas" (Paleckis) 392203.250
"The Young Lithuania" (Right nationalists) 211441.7500+0+1
The Civic Democracy Party (Muntianas) 134401.1100+0+1
The Russian minority party 109860.910
Social Democratic Union (Marxist-lite) 103780.860
Lithuanian Center Party 84330.700

Update [2008-10-14 06:40:0 (LT) by das monde]: I made changes only in the last column now. With 5 districts to report, percentages are almost the same, though Zoukas' liberals meet the 5% barrier by mere 90 votes.

First, some history.

Lithuanian independence movement was barely visible until 1987, but once Sąjūdis (lit., common, wide movement) was formed in June 1988 in a meeting of intellectuals, it was very effective. The Sąjūdis got big boosts from public gatherings (of 100 to 250 thousand people) of June 24 (to "instruct" Lithuanian delegates of a Communist Congress) and August 23 (to commemorate the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact) 1988 at Vingis park in Vilnius. They enjoyed increasing influence on the Lithuanian Communist party (led by Algirdas Brazauskas from October 1988), perhaps at a price of upstaging older independence movements.

At the successful Sąjūdis Congress (on October 22-23, 1988) they started to talk about Lithuanian independence openly. In February 1989, the Sąjūdis honored the 16 February 1918 Independence Act, and declared independence as its goal. Next month it won convincingly elections to the Congress of USSR People's Deputies (36 of 42 Lithuanian delegates; held in May 1989). The 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was commemorated with the impressive Baltic Way chain of people joining hands from Vilnius to Tallinn.

The local communist party seceded from the USSR Communist Party in December 1989, but the Sąjūdis won (with 101 out of 141 seats) the 1990 February elections to the Lithuanian SSR legislative body. Lithuanian independence was declared on March 11, 1990, at the first gathering of the legislators (chaired by Vytautas Landbergis). The USSR responded with an economic blockade and the January 10-13, 1991 military confrontation.

De facto independence was achieved after the August 1991 coup attempt in Moscow. The economic situation was still chaotic. The 1992 October parliamentary elections was unexpectedly won by the former communist party. The Sąjūdis quickly lost its influence, as its diverse pool of members had already formed a spectrum of parties.

:: :: :: :: ::

The Lithuanian parliament Seimas has 141 members; 71 of them are elected in individual constituencies, and 70 --- by nationwide proportional representation (with the 5% barrier for single political parties; 7% for coalitions). The term is four years. Local elections are every 3 years; presidential elections are every 5 years.

There are 37 registered parties; 18-20 of them are active in governing or in these elections. A reasonable distinction is between left-wing, right-wing, centrist-liberal and populist parties.

Left-wing parties

The Communist party was banned in 1991, but the "traditional" party under Algirdas Brazauskas reorganized itself into LDDP (Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania) and won the 1992 elections. Their success was so surprising that they had less candidates on their list than the number of awarded seats (the extra seats got distributed among other parties). Probably that was the first precedent of former communists returning to power in the Eastern Europe (before Poland, 1993, for example). Their governing was not successful; LDDP got just 9.5% of votes in the next 1996 election. [The privatization scheme was formally democratic, with investment vouchers issued to everyone, and (unlike in Russia) large objects privatized later. But the process was not appreciated (or understood) by the population under any government. Deliberate disruption of still state objects was often suspected; most of the vouchers went to ensure real estate, or given away to "investment funds".]

Brazauskas was elected the president for the 1993-1998 term. He returned to serve as a Prime Minister in 2001-2006.

The LDDP rebounded strongly in the 2000 elections. Their coalition with LSDP ("historical" socialdemocrats) and Prunskienė's New Democracy party won 31.15% of vote, or 51 seats. After failure of the initial "New Politics" center coalition government, they took charge in July 2001 (together with Social Liberals). In January 2001, the LDDP and LSDP united as LSDP, though the LDDP part dominated the union. (In particular, the leader Vytenis Andriukaitis of the "old"-LSDP was quickly marginalized.)

The New Union (Social Liberals) party was founded in 1998 by Artūras Paulauskas, after his close loss in the 1998 presidential elections to Valdas Adamkus. (Paulauskas was favoured by the outgoing Brazauskas.) The Social Liberals participated in the government from 2000 till April 2006, when Paulauskas unexpectedly lost a vote of confidence as Seimas Chairman.

Since 2006, LSDP dominates a minority cabinet. The prime minister is Gediminas Kirkilas. After the first hard decade, Lithuania experienced a Baltic economic boom the last years, though less swift than Estonia, and with a milder hangover than Latvia. The Baltic credit expansion probably deserves a crisis on its own, with inflation picking up the last 12 months (12-13% annually). But now the biggest scare is the global economy.

Right-wing parties

The Sąjūdis went into the 1992 elections crystallized as a conservative nationalist party. Led by Vytautas Landsbergis, they unexpectedly lost. There were economic reasons: unpopular though chaotic shock therapy, emphatic disregard of Soviet time industries and farms. But no less decisively, the emerged conservative core was perceived as arrogant in taking all credit for the independence achievement, or endorsing pre-war social relations too much. In May 1993, the conservative opposition founded Tėvynės Sąjunga, Homeland Union (Lithuanian Conservatives). They were victorious in the 1996 election, but their governing (with Christian Democrats) was very unpopular, especially wooden implementation of market principles under Gediminas Vagnorius. The 1998 Russian financial crisis blocked any economic progress as well.

Landsbergis currently serves in the European parliament. He expressed dissmay with the efforts of his party in the ongoing campaign.

The Homeland Union merged with the Lithuanian Christian Democrats in May 2008, somewhat copying the LDDP-LSDP merger. But the effect looks less impressive. The leader is the 1999-2000 prime minister Andrius Kubilius.

The Homeland Union - Christian Democrats seem to gather limited support, as the traditional conservative ideology feels suspect to a portion of the electorate apparently. Several alternative conservative, nationalist or christian-democratic parties were awfully unsuccessful. Extreme right groups have no electoral success either, though their "balancing" symbolism should not be ignored.

Center-liberal parties

Several popular Sąjūdis intellectuals were drawn into Center or Liberal parties, but the 1992 election gave them just a few individuals seats. The Liberal Union found a success (over 30 seats) in 2000 after capturing a rising star, Rolandas Paksas. Their "New Politics" government with Social Liberals (and a couple of small parties) was championed by the president Adamkus over Brazauskas' socialdemocratic coalition, but that lasted only until summer 2001. Paksas left the party next year. Another colourful mayor of Vilnius, Artūras Zuokas, fused the Liberal and Centre Union in May 2003. But the shuffle at the center was not over, as Zuokas became too controversial to other leaders. There are three center or liberal (or both) parties contesting now.

The libertarian ideology is being promoted in Lithuania rather earnestly, with a Free Market Institute think tank in front. They target LSDP and its governments often, though I do not see that the governments make many inconveniences to Lithuanian corporate groups.

Populist parties

The left-right electoral swings were over with the previous cycle, but populist opportunities appeared. The already mentioned Rolandas Paksas was already a Vilnius mayor (twice) and Prime Minister (twice though briefly) when he formed the Liberal Democratic Party in March 2002. He surprisingly beat Adamkus in the second round of Presidential elections in January 2003, with an appeal to the not-quite-middle but broad class. However, Seimas managed to impeach him in 14 months, for suspect ties to Russian entrepreneurs. By current laws, Paksas cannot run for an office, but he still shows ambitions. His coalition won 11 seats in 2004, though they were isolated from government formation. His party runs now under the name Tvarka ir Teisingumas, Order and Justice.

Then we have Darbo partija, Labour Party, led by the native Russian Viktoras Uspaskich, a welder turned enterpreneur then politician. In the 2004 election Darbo Partija got most of Seimas seats (39), and could govern with LSDP and Prunskienė's party. Uspaskich got into conflict of interest problems by June 2005, and he resigned from the government and Seimas. About a year later the party was suspected in income violations, and Uspaskich did not return from Russia until late 2007. He was apprehended in Vilnius airport, but can participate in this election.

Kazimira Prunskienė was the first Prime minister of the newly independent Lithuania, the "amber lady". She resigned amidst the January 1991 chaos. (The direct prelude to eventually tragic events was freeing-up prices.) Although one of Sąjūdis leaders, she was alleged to have collaborated with KGB. Since 1995, Prunskienė led the Women Party, its union with the New Democracy Party, and then the union with Peasants' Party. Currently, the party should be called Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union. Prunskienė's party participated in the 2000 Brazauskas' coalition and post-2004 governments. After Paksas' impeachment, Prunskienė faced Adamkus in a Presidential election, and lost by 5% in the second round.

The crop of new populist hopefuls includes parties of Viktoras Muntianas (ex-Darbo), Justas Paleckis (ex-LSDP), and TV showman Arūnas Valinskas.

Ethnic minority parties

Polish politicians regularly win a few seats, thanks to Polish districts in South East (and no barrier for minority parties in the first elections). Russian presence in Seimas is less consistent.  

What will happen on Sunday?

I have little idea, as I got shoulder shrugs from virtually everyone asked. Many find no appealing choice (as always). The main drama is whether "populist" or "traditional" parties will hold sway.  A personal dilemma between LSDP and Homeland Union is not strange at all. The campaign laws are strict this time (perhaps after Darbo Party's professional PR last time), visibility on streets or TV commercials are low. The main issues apparently are: the ongoing economy crisis, the fate of Ignalina atomic plants (old and new)... Russian threat is surely mentioned (if only there are new people listening). Absentee voting stations seem to be busy. As there is little outside clues, a new surprise might be lurking.

Thanks for this!

Very interesting reading.

I have some comments, but they'll have to wait until I've done some work.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Oct 9th, 2008 at 01:23:11 PM EST
A very useful survey, das monde, thanks!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Oct 10th, 2008 at 03:36:28 AM EST
Thans from me, too!

(And belated editorial note: I moved the historical section below the fold and broke it up into praragraphs, also correcting two cases of 1998 in place of 1988.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Oct 10th, 2008 at 06:28:45 AM EST
OK. Thank you!
by das monde on Fri Oct 10th, 2008 at 07:12:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So what's up the Lithuanian referendum on Ignalina 2 which is also held today?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Oct 12th, 2008 at 11:00:20 AM EST
It is a strange referendum, on an issue already subject to the EU accession agreement.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Oct 12th, 2008 at 12:05:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm Swedish, so I'm no stranger to absurd referendums (referenda?). Some day I'll make a diary covering all of the ones we've had, and at least half were just absurd.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Oct 12th, 2008 at 12:08:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The referendum is void, as less than 50% of voters participated. 88-90% of those who came voted for prolongation of working with the current reactor.
by das monde on Mon Oct 13th, 2008 at 02:40:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All new, all improved, das monde. Thanks.  I´ll wait for results later.

Are there major, direct correlations of bank crumblings and market paper that we hear about, or are the effects in Lithuania only parallels?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Oct 12th, 2008 at 01:04:47 PM EST
If I read this right, the exit poll says, in das monde's ordering, with those above the 5% limit bolded:

  • Social Democrats 13.21%
  • Social Liberals 3.69%
  • Christian Democrats 21.02%
  • Liberal and Centre Union 4.83%
  • Zuokas's breakaway Lithuanian Republic Liberla movement (not listed by das monde) 4.21% [now THAT split should hurt!]
  • Order and Justice 13.94%
  • Labor (Darbo) 10.81%
  • Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union 3.91%
  • Front (Paleckis's party) 3.26%
  • Rising Nation Party (the party of TV showman Arūnas Valinskas) 11.2%
  • Polish minority party: 3.97%

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Oct 12th, 2008 at 01:34:17 PM EST
If I got that right, too, turnout was a dismal 50%.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Oct 12th, 2008 at 01:35:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Based on this result, I would judge Lithuania... ungovernable. But I hope someone can pitch in with descriptions of potential coalitions...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Oct 12th, 2008 at 05:08:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Valinskas could help both the conservatives and LSDP, I think. Or LSDP and the conservatives could almost leave "populists" behind... Liberals would probably prefer conservatives. Without conservatives, center and left parties could also try...
by das monde on Mon Oct 13th, 2008 at 02:43:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, 20% for parties not reaching the threshold? That has got to produce some interesting after election discussions.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Oct 12th, 2008 at 06:44:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... combinations that would be over the 7% margin for a coalition to win proportional representation, so not even requiring a party merger.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Oct 12th, 2008 at 11:41:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mixed up the two liberal parties (with or without Zuokas). But later results seem to be favorable to the non-Zuokas liberals.

Provincial and big city districts vote markedly differently, and later corrections from Vilnius and Kaunas are often substantial.

by das monde on Mon Oct 13th, 2008 at 02:14:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I saw Zuokas's name in a Lithuanian-language article for the Lithuanian Republic Liberal movement -- and guessed wrong ;-)

Now for the apparent true winner of the election, who is the populist Valinskas and what does he want and advocate?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 13th, 2008 at 05:42:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Both liberal parties sneak through, apparently. That changes a lot! The question is: will they be willing to work together? Which would negotiate itself intogovernment more effectively.

Mr Valinskas is a popular quiz-showman (right from the 1990s), his wife is a singer. I do not know much about his party, nor I recognize names in the list. The short Lithuanian Wikipedia page says that his party contains many coleagues from arts-and show buisiness. But they promiss to end the Lithuanian political circus, rather than to let it loose. They would govern with anyone, except (emphatically) Darbo and Paksas' Order&Justice parties.

Lithuanian show-personalities often announce their interest in politics, not with serious apparences usually. At least one actor was running for a president. There are several TV satirical programs, seeking to touch politics regurlarly, but by now they are no less dumb than the politics.

by das monde on Mon Oct 13th, 2008 at 06:11:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, policy-wise, a complete blank-slate who promises 'pragmatism'?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 13th, 2008 at 06:32:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Valinskas indicated that he does not think much of Kirkilas as a premier. On the other hand, many fear that his party sympathize socialdemocrats better. They appear to exclude Paksas' party only now.

I noticed an interest thing about absentee voting (see the "paštu" column here). Valinskas party was getting just 7.5% there, while Prunskiene's and socialliberal parties were aiming for the 5% barrier (and getting more absentee votes than any of the liberals). The conservatives were getting 23.5% of absentee votes. The LSDP and Darbo parties were getting 2% more there as well.

by das monde on Mon Oct 13th, 2008 at 11:55:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Both liberal parties sneak through, apparently. That changes a lot!

If I read your figures right, at least four parties needed in a coalition (apart from the I guess unlikely scenario of the three biggest parties joining).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 13th, 2008 at 06:39:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The two liberal parties increased friendliness to each other. Zoukas even indicated that he would give up leadership in a re-union. The coalition of conservatives, liberals and Valinskas' party already have 40 seats, and could easily get a majority in the run-off. The run-off round will admit or spoil that.
by das monde on Tue Oct 14th, 2008 at 12:01:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is the table I started to put up 2 hours ago. Both liberal parties were indeed below the 5% barrier 41685 (counted from the number of all participating voters). Voter participation was 833683 (48,20%) in counted districts. Non-valid votes - 47493 (5,70%).

P.S. The placement of table is very strange - way below. Can the location be fixed?

PartyVotesPercentageRun-Off chances
of valid votesSeats   Likely + Toss-up + Underdog
Homeland Union - Christian Democrats 14050417.871715+18+10
Social Democrats 9595412.2012+2 6+13+5
Order And Justice (Rolandas Paksas) 10535513.4013 3+8+5
Rising Nation Party (Arūnas Valinskas, LNK TV)11699914.8814 0+2+7
Darbo Partija (Labour Party) 783519.979 2+3+0
The Polish minority party 454435.785+1 2+1+0
Lith. Rep. Liberal Movement (without Zuokas) 395815.030 4+2+3
The Liberal and Center Union (with Zuokas) 392885.000 0+7+3
Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union (Prunskienė) 305203.8801+5+2
Social Liberals 293143.7301+1+0
"Frontas" (Paleckis) 242963.090
"The Young Lithuania" (Right nationalists) 127381.6200+0+1
The Civic Democracy Party (Muntianas) 90561.1500+0+1
Social Democratic Union (Marxist-lite) 70440.900
The Russian minority party 65380.830
Lithuanian Center Party 52170.660
by das monde on Mon Oct 13th, 2008 at 02:16:12 AM EST
Thanks for the coverage!

The table is strange because you forgot about autoformatting. When you put HTML code into a comment and leave the format pull-down menu (between the Preview and Post buttons) as Auto Format, your line breaks will be converted into HTML line breaks (e.g. <br> tags). So when you write the HTML code of a table with line breaks between table row closing and opening tags (between </tr> and <tr>), and post it this way, browsers will interpret those misplaced <br> tags as all being above the table.

So, you should do one of two things in the future:

1) eliminate line breaks from tables, e.g. write it like this:

<table><tr><td>First Column</td><td>Second Column</td></tr> <tr><td>Party 1</td><td>x %</td></tr> <tr><td>Party 2</td><td>y %</td></tr></table>

2) Choose "HTML Formatted" in the pull-down menu; but then don't forget to (A) add HTML paragraph breaks (<p>) between your paragraphs, and (B) check and re-set the pull-down menu to Auto Format in your next comment or diary.

Note: when you edit an already posted diary of yours, you will note that there is an automatic change from autoformat to HTML. (Hence no strange extra space for the table you added to the diary.) That is, HTML paragraph breaks should not be forgotten in updates.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 13th, 2008 at 04:44:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, I think I got that. If it is possible to remove those BReaks, I would not mind surely.

Now I do the same operation again, copying next older results here, and updating the diary. With 1929 out of 2034 districts reporting, as of (officially, LT time) 7:57am:

Voter participation - 1197857 (48.33%). Non-valid votes - 67559 (5.64%). The 5% barrier (derived from the number of all participating voters) is 59893. The last column gives (preliminary) numbers of candidates in run-off elections two weeks later in individual constituencies. Three individual mandates are already won.
PartyVotesPercentageRun-Off chances
of valid votesSeats Likely + Toss-up + Underdog
Homeland Union - Christian Democrats 21777919.271815+18+10
Social Democrats 13379211.8411+2 6+13+5
Order And Justice (Rolandas Paksas) 14550912.8712 3+8+5
Rising Nation Party (Arūnas Valinskas, LNK TV)17252515.2715 0+2+7
Darbo Partija (Labour Party) 1036259.179 2+3+0
Lith. Rep. Liberal Movement (without Zuokas) 634835.625 4+2+3
The Liberal and Center Union (with Zuokas) 576935.100 0+7+3
The Polish minority party 551314.880+1 2+1+0
Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union (Prunskienė) 427053.7801+5+2
Social Liberals 417713.7001+1+0
"Frontas" (Paleckis) 363443.220
"The Young Lithuania" (Right nationalists) 196391.7400+0+1
The Civic Democracy Party (Muntianas) 126611.1200+0+1
Social Democratic Union (Marxist-lite) 100370.890
The Russian minority party 96750.860
Lithuanian Center Party 78300.690
by das monde on Mon Oct 13th, 2008 at 05:35:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If it is possible to remove those BReaks, I would not mind surely.

Unfortunately, even we can't edit posted comments.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 13th, 2008 at 05:37:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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