13/10/2008 - Results - 1st round
The Homeland Union-Conservatives (TS-LK) which lies to the right of the political scale, led by Andrius Kubilius won the first round of the Lithuanian general elections on 12th October. It won 19.55% of the vote. As is often the case in the Baltic States a new party, the National Revival Party was the source of surprise when it came second winning 15.11%. Created in May last by the TV host and producer Arunas Valinskas the party that put forward a number of local celebrities and one of whose slogans was "The ship is sinking, but at least with us it will be more fun," set the goal of reviving Lithuanian confidence in the State and in the political institutions. Both of these parties pulled ahead of Order and Justice (TT), the populist party led by former President of the Republic (2003-2006) Rolandas Paksas who won 12.73% of the vote and the Social Democratic Party (LSP), led by outgoing Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, which won 11.76% of the vote. Finally the Labour Party (DP) created in 2003 by Russian billionaire Viktor Ouspaskitch and winner of the general elections on 10th and 24th October 2004 came fifth with 9.04% of the vote.
Two other parties will be represented in the Seimas, the only Chamber of Parliament: the Liberal Union-Centre Union (LLC-LSC) a liberal party that is a member of the outgoing government coalition led by Arturas Zuokas which is due to win 5.68% of the vote and the Liberal Movement led by Eligijus Masilius (5.32%).
However the Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union (LVLS) led by former Prime Minister (1990-1991) Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene, and the New Union-Social Liberal Party (NS-SL) led by outgoing Environment Minister Arturas Paulauskas failed to rise above the vital 5% threshold necessary to be represented in the Seimas.
"All of the parties in power were punished and the opposition attracted the electorate," analyses the editor in chief of the site Alfa.lt, Virgis Valentinavicius.
Turn out rose to 48.11%.
"The result appears to be good given the fact that most of the surveys did not forecast such support," declared Andrius Kubilius, on the announcement of the first results. "The alliance of the Conservatives with the Christian Democratic Party increased the chances of both parties since both had a very stable and extremely active electorate," analyses Algis Krupavicius, political science professor at the University of Kaunas. Running favourite in the pre-electoral polls the Home Union-Conservatives hopes to make a comeback to power, however it is against the populist parties and Andrius Kubilius will find it hard to find allies in For Order and Justice or with the Labour Party. "I would be very doubtful," he said adding that he was ready to work with all parties.
During the electoral campaign Andrius Kubilius made many speeches during which he maintained his fears of neighbouring Russia. "The feeling people have is simple: who will be next and when will the attacks affect Lithuania?" he asks after the intervention by Russian troops in Georgia. His comments were the cause of lively comment on the part of the For Order and Justice party, which sympathises with Russia. Rolandas Paksas and Viktor Ouspaskitch are often qualified as being pro-Russian, which both men deny.
Apart from victory – which was expected by the Homeland Union-Conservatives, the first round of general elections was also marked by the comeback of former Head of State Rolandas Paksas. The latter was impeached from his position by the Seimas on 6th April 2004 after having been found guilty of infringing the Constitution by illegally granting Lithuanian nationality to Yuri Borisov, a Russian businessman and main financier of his electoral campaign in the presidential election on 22nd December 2002 and on 5th January 2003, of favouring his friends during the privatisation of a motorway company. Constitutionally he is banned from undertaking public office but Rolandas Paksas may use his influence on the sidelines. He is counting on his party's success in order to quash the ban affecting him.
To convince the electorate the former Head of State has played on the fears of the Lithuanians who are concerned about the deterioration of the economy after several years of vigorous growth. His programme suggests the abolition of income tax for families with three children and more, to fight against high prices, notably those affecting energy, an increase in public sector salaries, the election of mayors and judges by direct universal suffrage and the reduction of the number of MPs by half. "The main difference between the general elections and the previous ones is that the country is experiencing economic difficulties for the first time in eight years," analyses Kestutis Gernius, member of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science.
In spite of the good results achieved by his party Andrius Kubilius is therefore far from being sure of becoming Prime Minister after these general elections. However the Social Democratic Party which has achieved a better score than forecast in the polls may stay in power. We should remember that 70 MPs were elected by proportional representation in the first round. The other 71 are appointed by a majority system in two rounds. Those who were not elected on 12th October will stand again on 26th October.
On 12th October the Lithuanians were also called to vote by referendum on the continued use of the nuclear power station Ignalina. They had to answer the following question: "Do you approve the fact that the Ignalina power plant continues to be run until a new station has been built?" Nearly 9 voters in ten (88.67%) said yes to the continued activity of the plant. The latter, which is similar to the one in Chernobyl in the Ukraine (RBMK) produces 70% of Lithuanian electricity. However the popular consultation is due to be declared invalid since only 47.80% of voters went to ballot whilst the electoral law makes it obligatory to have a 50% + 1 minimum turn out in order for the referendum to be valid. The Homeland Union-Conservatives were against this vote. "I have always said that it was a mistake. This will certainly not help Lithuania to extend Ignalina's lease of life," repeated Andrius Kubilius after the announcement of the results.
Results of the 1st round of the general elections on 12th October 2008 in Lithuania
Turn out: 48.11%