With less than a year and a half to the 2020 Seimas elections, the parties were given an excellent opportunity to measure their strength through the European Parliament elections. Political scientists contacted by tv3.lt state that the Conservatives should not be certain of their victory, while the spectre of death continues to hang over the Liberal Movement, Vilmantas Venckūnas worte.
The best performance in the European Parliament elections was that of the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD), which won 18.60% of the vote, gaining three mandates. Two mandates each went to the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) and the Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS), with respectively 15.07% and 11.92% of the vote. In fourth was the Labour Party with one mandate, receiving 8.54% of the vote.
Shouldn’t snooze beneath the laurels
The TS-LKD performed well this year in more than just the European Parliament elections. The Conservatives had the best performance among parties in the municipal elections as well, with the party led by Gabrielius Landsbergis furthermore also typically taking first place in public opinion polls.
Nevertheless, Mykolas Romeris University lecturer, political scientist Rima Urbonaitė stated to the tv3.lt news portal that the Conservatives should not celebrate the won elections loudly because in the 2016 Seimas elections they received more votes and furthermore, the Conservative nominated presidential candidate Ingrida Šimonytė received more voter support than the TS-LKD in elections held on the same day.
“What does it mean to be first? We saw well what it means in 2016. You can be first in the multi-mandate district, but if you fail to win in the single-mandate districts, you have the situation that the Conservatives found themselves in,” R. Urbonaitė recalled the situation three years ago where the Conservatives won the first round but were finally unable to form a majority in Seimas.
Political scientist Saulius Spurga stated that it is currently difficult to predict a Conservatives victory in 2020 Seimas elections, but current trends in Lithuania should leave the party in a good mood.
“Lithuania typically has a pendulum effect, where the opposition and majority swap places, thus it is likely that this could happen now as well,” the political scientist mused.
R. Urbonaitė was less optimistic toward the Conservatives and stated that she sees more signs of concern than calmness. According to her, competition is on the rise in the party system and this should be a concerning signal for both G. Landsbergis and all of the TS-LKD.
“Success in elections depends not only on what you are like, but also on what your competition is like. […] There are no calming signs,” the MRU lecturer stated.
Social Democrats will seek to tie down voters
In the latest European Parliament elections, the Social Democrats won over 199 thousand votes, compared to 183 thousand in 2016. Later, the LSDP faced a break-up, when the party’s veterans chose to remain in the ruling coalition and formed the Lithuanian Social Democrat Labour Party (LSDDP).
According to S. Spurga, both he European Parliament elections and the municipal elections demonstrated that the voters have decided, which of the two social democratic parties, the Gintautas Paluckas-led LSDP or the Gediminas Kirkilas-led LSDDP is more acceptable.
“One party was rejected and is passing, while the other survives,” the political scientist said.
“It can be seen that things bode ill for Kirkilas’ bloc. Because neither the municipal, nor the European Parliament elections show that there would be any serious potential remaining there,” R. Urbonaitė stated.
According to the political scientist, the more votes the “Farmers” lose, the more the Social Democrats win because their electorates overlap.
“A part of those voters are returning. But there is need for much work for these voters not to drift and for the Social Democrats to tie them down as much as possible,” R. Urbonaitė said.
According to the MRU lecturer, the successful performance by the Social Democrats in the municipal elections shows that the party has retain a strong support base in the regions and this could prove beneficial in the 2020 Seimas elections, in the single-mandate districts.
“So far it appears that it is an upward curve, but they should not expect that it will rise on its own without any further input,” the political scientist mused.
According to S. Spurga, so far Lithuania did not have a real left-wing party and the earlier differentiation between the right and left was less based on ideological views and more on perception of past events and relations with Russia.
“A new generation of voters is emerging, they are interested in the parties’ ideologies and it is very important to them,” he stated.
“Farmers” could be side-lined by new messiahs
In both the municipal elections and European Parliament elections, the “Farmers” let both the Conservatives and recovering Social Democrats ahead.
“We will see what happens with the “Farmers” next: whether they will continue downward with great momentum or whether they will manage to stabilise the situation,” R. Urbonaitė mused.
According to her, if the “Farmers’” situation does not improve soon, this could become a niche for a completely new political power.
“We keep seeing a demand among voters for new messiahs. Thus, these could emerge,” the political scientist stated.
S. Spurga highlighted two problems for the “Farmers” that could threaten their performance in the 2020 Seimas elections. Firstly, it is that the LVŽS’ popularity is based on only two figures – Ramūnas Karbauskis and Saulius Skvernelis.
“It is hard to say how they get along because they are very different in their characters and views,” S. Spurga spoke.
The “Farmers’” second problem, according to the political scientist is that the “Farmers’” main support is in the regions and not the large cities and lacking support from the large cities, the “Farmers” shouldn’t expect good results.
Liberals could consume one another
The Liberal Movement received over 6% of the vote in the most recent European Parliament elections, receiving a single mandate. S. Spurga sees it as a phenomenon that after three years passing since the Eligijus Masiulis scandal, the party remains alive and still has voter support.
“It is clear that Lithuania has young and educated voters, who want to see liberal politicians in power and vote for them,” the political scientist stated.
According to S. Spurga, the Liberal Movement could have received even greater support, however a part of the Eugenijus Gentvilas-led party could have been drawn by Artūras Zuokas’ Lithuanian Freedom Union and economist Paulius Kunčinas’ electoral committee Lemiamas Šuolis [Final Leap].
R. Urbonaitė stated that the Liberal Movement’s results are no reason for the party to celebrate prior to the 2020 Seimas elections because receiving 6% of the vote is barely above the 5% barrier for party entry into parliament. According to the political scientist, the Freedom Party being founded by Aušrinė Armonaitė should also be a cause for concern for the Liberal Movement.
“Of course, it could be that these parties will consume one another and neither will enter Seimas. Such a risk also exists. […] The Liberals’ situation remains sufficiently complicated, it is neither time to drink champagne, nor is there sufficient basis. With the Seimas elections nearing, a challenge to them will be not only their ratings, but also emerging competition,” R. Urbonaitė said.
Unsinking Labour and Puteikis’ prospects
Recovery is also visible in the Labour Party, which has regained Viktor Uspaskich. The party received 8.54% of the vote in the European Parliament elections.
“This party is seemingly the unsinkable Titanic. Uspaskich has travelled from scandal to scandal in his political career: from happy and not very sober to now being a meditating yogi. Whatever he is like, he appeals to voters. This is a phenomenon that is hard to explain from a political science standpoint,” S. Spurga stated.
He stated that he believes that this V. Uspaskich will take the party to the Seimas elections and it could enter parliament. R. Urbonaitė states that the growing strength of the Labourites is increasing competition levels and their results in the European Parliament elections raises more questions than answers regarding the success in the Seimas elections.
The first among the political powers failing to receive a mandate is the Lithuanian Centre Party (LCP). R. Urbonaitė stated that the LCP remains a party of one individual, Naglis Puteikis, while the union with Antanas Guoga, who was the party’s frontrunner for the European Parliament elections, did not appeal to voters, she believes.
“Puteikis’ situation is complicated and in turn, so is the party’s. […] Puteikis was a phenomenon for a while, but it seems his uniqueness has been waning as of late,” R. Urbonaitė said.
N. Puteikis stated that he plans to participate in the Seimas elections together with Arvydas Juozaitis’ movement. However, R. Urbonaitė is sceptical of this union’s chances.
“It would be a very peculiar entity, a sort of hybrid. I cannot say, just how much support could appear among the public for them. I do not know whether Puteikis and Juozaitis will resolve to do so because you have to find many points of agreement and it may be hard for these figures to come to terms,” the political scientist mused.
The next Seimas elections are to be held on October 11, 2020.