13/06/2004 - D-7 - 1st round
On 26th May last the Constitutional Court of Lithuania finally withdrew all hope of Rolandas Paksas being re-elected President of the Republic by publishing a decree prohibiting any dismissed President from being elected again. The Court's decision was irrevocable.
As a reminder the former President of the Republic, Rolandas Paksas was dismissed on 6th April from his post by the Seimas, the single chamber of Parliament in the Baltic Republic. Representatives found him guilty of having violated the Constitution and State secrets and also of having favoured his friends in the attribution of a motorway company whilst it was being privatised. Rolandas Paksas has constantly denied all of the accusations against him maintaining that he was a victim of a conspiracy.
"If anyone thinks that I shall give way they are mistaken", declared Rolandas Paksas in the Figaro on 17th February last, showing that he was determined to stay at the centre of the Lithuanian political arena. "If they stop me on this (the presidential election), I shall not give up and will lead my men to Parliament", he maintained once more on 17th April as he announced his candidature for the presidential election, alluding to the upcoming general elections that are to take place in the autumn. In spite of him not taking part in the presidential election it is not impossible for Rolandas Paksas to make a come back within the next few months.
On 28th May last the Electoral Commission officially declared the candidatures of five people valid in the first round of the presidential election that will take place in Lithuania on the same day as the European Elections ie 13th June next.
The five people are as follows:
Valdas Adamkus, 77 years old, former president of the Republic (1999-2003) ;
Petras Austrevicius, former chief negotiator for Lithuania with the European Union. He says that he is "a candidate without a party and commitments"; he is however supported by the Union for the Mother Country-Conservatives (TS-LK) and the Democratic Labour Party (LDDP), a party created in autumn 2003 by Viktor Ouspaskitch, and is at present the most popular party in Lithuania;
Kazimiera Prunskiene, 61 years old, former Prime Minister, candidate of the Farmers' Party-The Party for New Democracy (LVP - NDP);
Ceslovas Jursenas, 65 years old, successor to Arturas Paulauskas at the head of the Seimas and vice President of the Social Democrat Party (LSDP) that is in power at present;
Vilija Blinkeviciute, Labour and Social Affairs Minister, candidate for the New Union -Social Liberals (NS-SL).
Andrius Kubilius, the leader of the Conservatives and allied to the Mother Country Union, was sorry that the former President Valdas Adamkus had decided to stand in the presidential election, thereby contributing to the division of the rightwing. The TS-LK committed itself to Petras Austrevicius whom they think more able to take the lead over his three rivals from the left. Andrius Kubilius has also forecast that no social democrat candidates will go beyond the first round and that the final duel will be between Petras Austrevicius et Valdas Adamkus.
For his part, Petras Austrevicius pointed out that he had called for no financial support from political parties and that he felt that he not bound to any party whatsoever. Mid-May; MP Irena Degutiene, member of the Mother Country Union, a party that is committed to the former chief negotiator for Lithuania with the European Union, publicly requested Petras Austrevicius to distance himself from the Democratic Labour Party that is calling for a vote in his favour. Vytautas Landsbergis, former leader of the Mother Country Union and father of the country's independence also said that the LDDP's support of Petras Austrevicius was damaging.
The Democratic Labour Party, that is by far the most popular party in the country - is far ahead in the opinion polls undertaken on the European Elections - and was founded in the autumn of 2003 by the millionaire MP Viktor Ouspaskitch. He arrived in Lithuania in 1985 just a few years before the country's independence - the Russian business man led a holding company that brought together about twelve companies employing around 4,000 workers. Viktor Ouspaskitch, who is not standing either in the presidential or the European elections, will however be a potential candidate to succeed Algirdas Brazauskas (LSDP) as Prime Minister during the general elections later this year. The LDDP leader previously belonged to the Social Liberal Party, allied to the Social Democrat Party (LSDP) that is in power at present, before founding his own movement. After the breakthrough of Res publica in Estonia, the Democratic Labour Party, a populist movement, might very well become the country's leading party on the occasion of the upcoming general elections.
In all the opinion polls former President Valdas Adamkus is the main favourite in the presidential election. Although foreign policy was the main point of his first (1999-2003), Valdas Adamkus maintains that is he is elected he will dedicate himself more to the domestic situation during his second mandate. He also said he wanted recent events to enable the population to understand more about populism and for it to be aware of the danger it represented for the country. "I am sure that the Lithuanian people have understood their lesson", he declared at the end of May. Opinion poll results on the image the population has of the political institutions that was undertaken at the beginning of May by Vilmorus and published in Lietuvos Rytas, showed that the decision to dismiss Rolandas Paksas contributed to the improvement of the image Lithuanians have of the Presidential position.
According to the survey published by Spinter Tyrimai on 2nd June last, Valdas Adamkus is due to win 26.5% of the vote in the first round of the presidential election. He would be followed by Vilija Blinkeviciute (NS-SL), who is to win 14.4% of the vote and Petras Austrevicius, 12.4%. Kazimiera Prunskiene would be supported by 8.5% of the electorate and Ceslovas Jursenas by 7.2% of them. 15% of those interviewed say they are still undecided about the election. According to the opinion polls, in the absence of the former president Rolandas Paksas, his electorate says that it is ready to vote for Kazimiera Prunskiene. We should remember that the Farmers' Party-the Party for New Democracy's candidate was opposed to Rolandas Paksas's dismissal and recently confirmed that he supported none of the candidates running in the presidential election.