06/10/2008 - D-7 - 1st round
Around 1,500 candidates from 21 parties are running in the general elections that will take place on 12th October in Lithuania. The parties running are:
- the Social Democratic Party (LSP), led by present Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas;
- the Homeland Union-Conservatives (TS-LK), an opposition party lying to the right and led by Andrius Kubikius ;
- New Union-Social Liberal Party (NS-SL), led by present Environment Minister, Arturas Paulauskas;
- the Liberal Movement, led by Eligijus Masilius ;
- Lithuanian Poles' Electoral Action (LLRA), a party representing the Polish minority in Lithuania, led by Waldemar Tomaszewski;
- The Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union (LVLS), led by former Prime Minister (1990-1991) Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene;
- For Order and Justice (TT), created and led by former President of the Republic (2003-2004) Rolandas Paksas;
- the Labour Party (DP), a populist party led by Russian billionaire Viktor Ouspaskitch;
- the Liberal Union-Centre Union (LLC-LSC), member of the government coalition, led by Arturas Zuokas.
70 MPs will be elected by proportional representation on 12th October. The other 71 members of the Seimas, the only Chamber in Parliament, will be appointed by majority vote and will therefore be elected in the second round of voting on 26th October, except for those who win an absolute majority in the first round on 12th October (on condition that turn out rises to at least 40% or if it is lower that they win at least 1/5 of the votes of those registered).
Two months after the intervention of the Russian army in Georgia the Homeland Union-Conservatives (TS/LK) made security one of the focal points of its programme. The party is against the Social Democratic Party's proposal to abolish military service and to replace the subscription army by a professional one. It believes that neighbouring Russia is a threat to national security and fears a break-through by the pro-Russian populist parties during the election on 12th October. If the TS/LK wins Vytautas Landsbergis, father of the Lithuanian independence may become Foreign Minister.
For its part For Order and Justice (TT) is protesting against the declarations made by Andrius Kubikius, the TS/LK leader. "Just as the EU's policy is to try and entertain dialogue with Russia a Lithuanian political party is trying to drag the inhabitants of Lithuania into an armed conflict with Russia. This a potential factor for war," maintains Rolandas Paksas, who perceives a threat in Andrius Kubikius's declarations since the latter says that Russian investments in Lithuania are a direct threat to the country's security – Rolandas Paksas sees this as a provocation to increase political tension. TT recalls that Russian investments only represent 12% of all direct investment received by all Lithuanian companies.
The party delivered a text to the Seimas aiming to include the establishment of NATO military bases in the Constitution, a proposal against which the TS/LK protested. "Their refusal can be explained like this: the Conservatives maintain some things and do exactly the opposite: which means they do not want NATO bases and Atlantic Treaty forces to defend Lithuania if there is a problem," said Valentinas Mazuronis, chair of the TT parliamentary group which is quick to qualify Andrius Kubilius as "the 5th Column". The votes of at least 36 MPs are necessary for the Seimas to start looking into the text which may lead to the modification of the fundamental law.
"It will be difficult to form a rainbow coalition with the traditional parties and yet in view of the present situation this might be beneficial to the country," said President of the Republic Valdas Adamkus. The rainbow coalition rallies the Social Democratic Party (LSP) and the Homeland Union-Conservatives (TS/LK). In particular the Head of State criticised the parties who make populist promises that they cannot honour if they win. The Labour Party, For Order and Justice and the Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union are the targets of his criticism even thought they are not explicitly mentioned.
Valdas Adamkus also rose up against the referendum organised on 12th October with regard to the continued use of the nuclear power plant Ignalina. In this popular consultation, the Lithuanians are being asked to vote on the future of the station; according to the European directives which Lithuania promised to respect when it entered the EU in 2004, the plant has to stop work in 2009. Vilnius has tried several times to convince the EU that Ignalina can continue working safely until 2015, when the Baltic States and Poland are to build a new plant together.
According to the President of the Republic who indicated that he would vote blank on 12th October this consultation is playing the electorate's conscience and the Ignalina issue should be settled otherwise. "It is unfair to play with the electorate. The referendum will not impress the EU and its results may be damaging to us. Lithuania has to respect its international commitments," he said in the daily Kauno Dienas.
The MPs in the Seimas voted in favour of the organisation of this referendum on 14th July last 88 votes in favour, 5 against and 11 abstentions. Supporters of this popular consultation say that the EU cannot ignore the public opinion as well as the possible energy price rises. In the continued use of the nuclear power plant Lithuania sees a means of decreasing its dependency with regard to Russian gas and electricity.
This referendum is purely consultative. Turn out of half of those registered is vital for it to be considered valid.
The Lithuanians are due to vote in favour of the continued use of the nuclear plant Ignalina by a wide majority.
With regard to the general elections much will depend on turn out. If this is low the vote will turn in favour of the populist parties. According to the latest surveys five parties are almost certain to rise above the necessary 5% threshold to be represented in the Seimas: the Social Democratic Party (LSP), Homeland Union-Conservatives-Christian Democratic Party (TS/LK), For Order and Justice (TT), the Labour Party (DP) and the Peasants' Union (LVLS). Matters might be more difficult for the Liberal Union-Centre Union (LLC-LSC) and the New Union-Social Liberal Party (NS-SL).