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Valdas Adamkus returns to the president's seat

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Corinne Deloy,  

Fondation Robert Schuman,  

Helen Levy

-

13 June 2004
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Deloy Corinne

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).

Robert Schuman Fondation

Fondation Robert Schuman

Levy Helen

Helen Levy

Former President of the Lithuanian Republic (1998-2003) Valdas Adamkus was re-elected as head of State during the second round of the presidential election on 27th June. He won 52.14% of the vote versus 47.86% for his rival Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene. The result was therefore much tighter than had been forecast by the opinion polls who all credited the former President with a lead of around 10 points over his adversary. As in the first round Valdas Adamkus achieved a good result in the urbanised part of the country winning 69.53% of the vote in Kaunas, the historical capital of Lithuania and the country's second largest town, 68.73% in Birstonas and 54% the capital, Vilnius. However in Visaginas, a town in the East and harbouring the country's biggest Russian minority, Valdas Adamkus won less than 10% of the vote, likewise in Salcininkai (10.69%). Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene achieved her best results in the countryside; she also won 91% of the vote in Visaginas and 89% in Salcininkai. The Farmers' Party-New Democracy Party (LVP-NDP) candidate also just clinched first place in Klaipeda, winning 50.06% of the vote in this harbour town. The participation rate rose to 41.2% and therefore was slightly higher (1.77 points) than during the first round of the election on 13th June last. Finally we should remember that 8.32% of Lithuanians chose to vote by post, the highest figure in the country's history.

The former President of the Republic, who is 77 years old, finds himself head of State once again after having suffered unexpected defeat in the second round of the presidential election on 5th January 2003 when he faced Rolandas Paksas. "We are turning back towards the international community to prove that we are good partners", declared Valdas Adamkus when the election results were announced. "I am calling on everyone to come together to improve everyone's life in Lithuania", he added. His re-election was greeted by all the country's leaders. "The Lithuanians have taken the right decision but I thought that Valdus Adamkus would have enjoyed better support", declared the interim President Arturas Paulauskas. "I would like to thank the Lithuanians who understood how important this decisioin was for Lithuania and its future", he added. For her part Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene, acknowledged her defeat and said that she was "slightly disappointed". "I am not excluding the possibility of challenging the result if the difference in the number of votes is low and that there were infringements of the electoral law", she maintained.

The final days of the electoral campaign were indeed marked by a new political crisis that irrupted when anti-corruption services searched the head offices of three political parties as part of an enquiry into financial fraud involving five members of parliament. Amongst others the searches took place at the Social Liberal Party (LLS) and the Liberal Centrist Union (LSC), two parties that support former President Valdas Adamkus. The latter said "that he was surprised by the coincidence". On the day of the search Arturas Zuokas, the Mayor of Vilnius and leader of the Liberal Centrist Union left Lithuania for Poland in order - he said- "to avoid being arrested". He returned to his office the following day.

"Operations such as these undertaken by the judiciary organisms the day before the presidential election cause political interpretations that should be avoided. It is a matter of knowing why they acted on this enquiry four days before the election. It's as if they had been waiting expressly for these elections", declared Arturas Paulauskas. According to Raimundas Lopata, director of the Institute for International Relations and Political Science in Vilnius, "this scandal apparently pushed the electorate towards Valdas Adamkus".

Some days earlier accusations were brought against Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene who it was said had collaborated with the KGB when Lithuania belonged to the USSR. The candidate formally denied these accusations.

Support for the former dismissed President Rolandas Paksas was therefore insufficient for Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene to win the presidential election. The decision taken by Viktor Ouspaskitch's Workers' Party (LDDP) to remain neutral in this the second round of the presidential election certainly did not help the Farmers' Party-New Democracy Party (LVP-NDP) candidate, all the more so since the leader of the party, that easily won the European elections on 13th June, had declared that he would himself vote for Valdas Adamkus. "After the affair of the former President's dismissal, Lithuania needs the authority provided by Valdas Adamkus", maintained Viktor Ouspaskitch. As she preferred to concentrate on the presidential election Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene gave up her seat at the European Parliament in Strasbourg where she was elected on 13th June during the first European elections that Lithuania took part in. "The support that I won in the first round of the presidential election has encouraged me to stay in Lithuania", she declared. In spite of her failure Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene said that she would take part in the general elections that are due in September. Her party, the Farmers' Party-New Democracy Party (LVP-NDP), should emerge strengthened by this presidential election.

Vytautas Radzvilas, a political analyst from the Institute of International Relations and Political Science in Vilnius qualified the election as "controversial". "With the return of Valdas Adamkus as head of State Lithuania should improve its international image", he maintained. However, "the repetition of the mistakes committed during the previous mandate might however weigh on the image of the presidential function", added the political expert. In an interview on a possible ministerial reshuffle Valdus was categorical: "Such a matter is not on the agenda. The present government is the result of the vote by the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament) and the Seimas majority comprises the unique support that the government requires", he declared.

The new Lithuanian president will officially take up office on 12th July next.

Results of the second round of the presidential election in Lithuania 27th June 2004

Turn-out rate: 41.20%

Source: Lithuanian Electoral Commission

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