The populists take the lead after the first round of the general elections in lithuanian marked by a high abstention rate


Corinne Deloy,  

Fondation Robert Schuman,  

Helen Levy


10 October 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

The Labour Party (DP), led by Viktor Ouspaskitch, took the lead after the first round of the general elections that took place in Lithuania on 10 October. The political party, that was only created a year ago by the billionaire of Russian origin, won 28.6% of the vote and 22 of the 70 seats Seimas (the Lithuanian Parliament) distributed by proportional election. The Coalition "We are working for Lithuania" comprising the Social Democrat Party (LSDP) and the Social Liberal Party (SL), who are in power at the moment, won 20.66% of the vote and 16 seats. It has the lead over the Pro-Patria - Conservative Union (TS-LK) that won 14.58% of the vote and 11 seats; the Coalition "For order and justice", created by the recently deposed president of the Republic Rolandas Paksas (Liberal Democrat Party) and led by Valentinas Mazuronis, won 11.42% of the vote and nine seats; the Liberal Union-Central Union (LLC-LSC), led by former head negotiator for Lithuania at the EU, Petras Austrevicius won 9.13% and seven seats; finally the Farmers' Party-New Democracy Party (LVP-NDP) led by Kazimiera Danute Prunskiene, won 6.60% of the vote and five seats.

Five candidates who were standing in one of the 71 constituencies, where the general elections were taking place according to a majority vote, were elected in the first round. These were Zigmantas Balcytis (LSDP) in Silales-Silutes, Juozas Palionis (LSDP) in Prienu, Valdemar Tomasevski (Polish Electoral Action, LLRA) in Vilnius-Salcininku, the Finance Minister, Algirdas Butkevicius (LSDP) in Vilkaviskio (57.56% of the vote) and finally Viktor Ouspaskitch himself was elected by 64.31% of the vote in his constituency of Kedainu.

The participation rate was particularly low rising only to 36.71%, that is nearly 20 points less than during the last general elections on 8 October 2000. We should remember that the Lithuanians were called upon many times during 2004 since voted on 13th June in the first European elections in their history and elected a new President of the Republic, Valdas Adamkus, on 27 June. 7.60% of the electorate, a record did however vote by post as the electoral laws allows them to do in the five days leading up to the election.

After the announcement of the results and contrary to his previous announcement that the position of head of government did not interest him personally, Viktor Ouspaskitch said that was indeed a candidate for the position of Prime Minister. "I shall not be the worst Prime Minister compared with those in the previous governments. I shall be able to stop corruption that is beyond control", he maintained.

The Labour Party leader also declared that he was ready to negotiate with the other political parties to form a government coalition. "We are ready to talk of a coalition with everyone, but we shall not look at the party programmes but the faces of those who lead them. Those who have been recognised for their poor performance will not be welcome in power", he pointed out. Present Prime Minister, Algirdas Mykolas Brazaukas, said that he was ready to share power with Viktor Ouspaskitch if he accepted the government coalition's programme, that he leads with the Social Liberal Party. "If we form an alliance, it will be up to the other parties to adopt the Labour Party programme", maintained the populist party leader however, quoting Algirdas Mykolas Brazaukas, whose experience as a potential Prime Minister he praised. On 5 October the Labour Party signed a document along with 11 other political parties confirming its approval of Lithuania's recent accession to the EU and NATO and its support of the strengthening of relations with the USA. All the parties in the Baltic Republic were also committed to ratifying the European Constitution in 2005.

A few months after the destitution of former President of the Republic Rolandas Paksas, accused of having divulged State secrets to a Russian businessman, Yuri Borisov, Lithuanian political, economic and cultural elites are worried about the rise to power of the billionaire of Russian origin, Viktor Ouspaskitch; they fear the return of the influence of Russia in the country's domestic affairs, a country that never really accepted the loss of the three Baltic Republics. A number of people have pointed out the close links the Labour Party leader has with the Russian company, Gazprom, a State company with close links to the Kremlin. "A person is not responsible for his place of birth; his honesty and competence do not depend on his place of birth", answered Viktor Ouspaskitch to those who doubt his loyalty.

Indeed for most Lithuanians the Russian roots of the Labour Party leader bear little weight in comparison with his success and the number of jobs he has helped to create. The Labour Party achieved its best results in the countryside and small towns, attracting the electorate with the lowest incomes and those who are disappointed with the advantages of the market economy. In spite of the country's high economic growth (+8.3% in the GDP in 2003), most of them have seen their standard of living drop over the last five years and are especially worried about the high level of unemployment, that effects 11% of the working population, and the extremely low level of salaries. "It's just like during the Soviet era. More than half of the politicians are former communists. They are used to the Soviet system where they maintained their position until they died. We want progress. We want to move forwards. We got here by being professionals and by applying our methods to politics; it is like this we are now going to improve the life of the Lithuanians", declared Viktor Ouspaskitch.

Although the Labour Party is the victor in the first round of the general elections, we shall have to wait until 24 October, the day of the second round when the 71 representatives elected by majority vote will be appointed and to discover the final composition of the Seimas. Fifty Labour Party candidates will be standing in the second round. Many political analysts think that the majority vote will be in favour of the traditional parties whose candidates are better known by the electorate.

After the first round in favour of the parties lying to the left of the political pole, most political analysts are opting for the creation of a tripartite government allying the Labour Party with the Social Democrat Party and the Social Liberal Party.

Results of the first round of the general election on 10 October 2004 in Lithuania

Participation rate: 36.71%

Source: Lithuanian Electoral Commission

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