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Lithuania - Presidential Election

Surprise victory by Rolandas Paksas in the second round of the presidential election in Lithuania

Surprise victory by Rolandas Paksas in the second round of the presidential election in Lithuania

22/12/2002 - Results - 2nd round

It was to everyone's surprise that the former Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas (Liberal Democrat Party) won the second round of the presidential election in Lithuania gaining 54.91% of the vote against 45.09% for his adversary former President Valdas Adamkus. This was an unexpected result even though the defeat of the outgoing President had been forecast by several political analysts.

The outgoing President immediately acknowledged his defeat. Valdas Adamkus who wanted to be reassuring declared, "the foundations are laid and I am convinced that Rolandas Paksas will lead Lithuania along the same route it has been following for the last 12 years." Immediately the new president, for his part, wanted to reassure the European Union and the International Community about his intentions by confirming his pro-European and pro-NATO positions: "I am sincerely in favour of Lithuania's integration into NATO and the EU and I have proved this during my political career. I would like to confirm that Lithuania's foreign policy will not change."

"The more people turn out to vote greater are Adamkus's chances. A low participation rate might turn the advantage to Paksas," said Raimundas Lopata, Director of the Institute for International Relations and Political Science in Vilnius just a few days before the second round. The political expert's forecasts revealed themselves to be true: only just over half of the Lithuanians went to ballot ie much less than the previous presidential election on 21st December 1997 (71.4% in the first round and 73.6% during the second round on 4th January 1998), a low participation rate that did indeed contribute to the victory of the outsider Rolandas Paksas.

Valdas Adamkus led a discrete campaign, it might even be said "passive", relying more on his results and his past successes than on a future programme. He was the latest "Lithuanian of 2001" to be elected and the outgoing President thought that his popularity (that lies close the 80% approval mark) and his integrity (Valdas Adamkus is one of the rare politicians to not have been involved in any scandals) would be sufficient for him to be elected to the supreme office once more. This however did not take into account the dynamic campaign undertaken by his adversary- and it might even be said offensive -and who also invested enormous amounts of money (his campaign budget was the highest for this presidential election).

« In spite of the optimism expressed by the public after the invitations sent to NATO and to the EU we must accept that a greater part of the population is not that happy and does not have such a good standard of live (17% of Lithuanians live below the poverty line). Paksas listened carefully to this part of the population and he talks to people about things they really want to hear: retirement, salaries, corruption," declared Alvydas Lukosaitis, a political expert from the Institute for International Relations in Vilnius. The leader of the Liberal Democrat Party managed to convey that he was the image of change ("Vote for Change" exclaimed his electoral posters) by leading a campaign that focussed on the country's domestic problems (the President of the Republic of Lithuania is essentially in charge of foreign policy) and by developing sensitive themes that a good number Lithuanians thought had been neglected during the change over to the market economy, like for example the fight against corruption and the return to prosperity and the respect of law and order. "Nobody has the right to steal or to waste our money. Those who want work must find it and those who want to study must be able to do so and no one should be afraid of being ill or growing old," repeated a populist and demagogic Rolandas Paksas willingly in his speeches. The leader of the Liberal Democrat Party also declared that he was in favour of the death penalty for drug traffickers and opposed to the closure of the civil nuclear plant in Ignalia, a step that the EU has demanded. The new President accused Valdas Adamkus of having sold off cheaply national interests to the EU, going so far as announcing the next day that he would like to renegotiate some points in the agreement made with the Fifteen, in particular in the agricultural domain.

Although he is popular amongst the Lithuanians Rolandas Paksas does not have the support of the ruling political movements (the Social Democrat Party, LSDP and the New Union of Social Liberals, NS-SL) whose leaders called for the support of Valdas Adamkus during the second round of the presidential election. Likewise the new President has few fans in Parliament. According to the Lithuanian Constitution the government has to resign when the President takes up office - who in turn has two weeks to appoint a Prime Minister and two more weeks to form a government. However Rolandas Paksas declared that he did not want to modify the government team that is in power at present: « Algirdas Brazaukas is very popular and before a President decides who to choose he should take that into consideration. To be truthful I am not in favour of great changes within the government since I must think about my country's stability," he stressed. Likewise after having promised a re-evaluation of the pensions and a drop in taxes, the leader of the Liberal Party confirmed that the budget would not be discussed in 2003. The new Lithuanian president will take oath on 26th February.

Results of the second round of the presidential election on 5th January :

Participation : 52,5%

Source : Agence France Presse
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
Other stages
1st roundAnalysis
2nd roundResults