11/05/2009 - D-7
The 1st round of the presidential election will take place in Lithuania on 17th May next. Just over 2.5 million voters are due to appoint the successor to Valdas Adamkus, the outgoing Head of State who is not standing again. If none of the candidates wins the majority of the vote in the 1st round voters will have to decide between the two leading candidates in a 2nd round that will take place on 7th June next i.e. on the same day as the European elections.
7 people are officially running in this presidential election:
- Dalia Grybauskaite, 53 years old, former Finance minister (2001-2004) in the government led by Algirdas Brazauskas; she is presently European Commissioner for the Budget and Financial Planning. An independent candidate she has the support of Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius and the parties, Homeland Union-Conservatives and the Liberal Union-Centre Union, members of the ruling government coalition;
- Algirdas Butkevicius, 50 years old, the Social Democratic Party candidate (LSP) of which he is chair and successor to Dalia Grybauskaite as Finance Minister in 2004;
- Valentinas Mazuronis, 55 years old, the Order and Justice candidate (TT); this party is led by former President of the Republic Rolandas Paksas, who was impeached as Head of State by the Seimas on 6th April 2004;
- Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene, 61 years old, former Prime Minister (1990-1991), who is supported by the People's Peasant Union (LVLS) and running for the third time (2002 and 2004) for the supreme office;
- Loreta Grauziniene, the Labour Party candidate (DP), a party led by Russian born billionaire Viktor Uspaskich;
- Ceslovas Jezerkas, an army general who is running as an independent candidate;
- Waldemar Tomaszewki, chair of the Polish Electoral Action (LLRA) which represents the Polish minority in Lithuania.
Dalia Grybauskaite is the major favourite in all the polls in which she easily dominates her adversaries. According to the polls she is due to be elected in the first round on 17th May. Appointed in Brussels, the European Commissioner is supported by people from all ends of the political scale. She says she is apolitical, has never belonged to a political party, has a conservative approach with regard to some subjects, but is a Social Democrat or Liberal with regard to others. Her Communist past (after training in Russia between 1976 and 1983 when she earned a diploma in economics from the Zdanov University in Leningrad, Dalia Grybauskaite became Secretary of the Academy of Science of the Socialist Republic of Lithuania in 1983 and taught economy at the Communist College of Vilnius from 1983 to 1990) is accepted by most Lithuanians.
Therefore there is no real ideological divide to be seen in this presidential campaign which some analysts regret even going as far as to compare this election with the Russian presidential election in which there were also several candidates but in which everyone knew who was going to win before the vote took place.
Jurist Vitas Vasiliauskas, who worked with Dalia Grybauskaite when she was Finance Minister, is leading her presidential team.
On 21st April last outgoing Head of State Valdas Adamkus delivered his traditional speech to the nation. He said he was sorry to see that his country had lost its sense of unity, responsibility, energy and faith which it enjoyed during the post-independence years. "Our greatest failure since regaining independence is to have failed in creating an open, responsible society based on true social consensus,
" he declared. "Only moral recovery can help Lithuania to emerge from the economic and moral crisis it is experiencing and offer us a prosperous future,
" he added. He gave a serious speech in which he also accused some former ministers of having been concerned with the survival of the government to which they belonged rather than focusing on reform that was vital for the country.
Like its Baltic neighbours Lithuania is severely affected by the economic crisis. Economists are forecasting a GDP contraction of 10.09% in 2009 and 2.5% the following year. Inflation which was at its lowest just over a year ago is due to rise to 10.9% in 2009 and still lie at 4.5% in 2010. Likewise the unemployment rate that was the lowest in the EU in 2008 now lies at 13.7% i.e. the third highest amongst the 27.
According to political analysts the government coalition led by Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius which rallies three political parties (the Homeland Union-Conservatives TS-LK, the People's Party for National Recovery TPP, and the Liberal Union-Centre Union LLC-LCS) may not survive after the presidential election. Tension is great between the three parties and the people's discontent is growing in the face of the government's austerity measures.
As for the opposition Social Democratic candidate Algirdas Butkevicius recalled that the European Commissioner supported all of the decisions taken by Andrius Kubilius's government. Successor to Dalia Grybauskaite as Finance Minister in 2004 he said that "Lithuania's deficit in 2008 totalled 700 million litas
" and not two billion as stated by Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius.
Labour Party candidate Loreta Grauziniene is campaigning against the government's policy which she claims is taking the wrong direction. Valentinas Mazuronis, who represents former President Paksas, is highlighting employment; Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene is maintaining that the administration's position, openly in support of Dalia Grybauskaite, is biasing the presidential election; the Polish minority representative, Waldemar Tomaszewki says that the present crisis is not only economic but also moral and finally General Ceslovas Jezerkas admits that he is finding the challenge against qualified politicians difficult but that he "is ready to fight
The most recent poll by RAIT credits Dalia Grybauskaite with 65.5% of the vote, Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene 4.2%, Algirdas Butkevicius 3.1%, Waldemar Tomaszewki and Ceslovas Jezerkas 3% each, Loreta Grauziniene 2.5% and Valentinas Mazuronis 1.8%.
8.7% of those interviewed said they would not go to ballot and 11.1% say still have not decided. If the votes of those who have already decided are counted, Dalia Grybauskaite is due to win 71.8% of the vote.
According to the polls a second round would be a moral failure for Dalia Grybauskaite. In addition to this a second round would not be without danger since in the two previous presidential elections (1997-1998 and 2002-2003), the final victory slipped through the candidate's fingers who won the greatest number of votes in the first round. The difference between the two people that emerged as leaders was certainly lower than that announced this year by the polls.