ELECTIONS. Crumbling Social Democrat lead. Analysis

Algirdas Butkevičius, Ramūnas Karbauskis, Gabrielius Landsbergis
DELFI montažas

A poll commissioned by DELFI from the public opinion and market research company Spinter Tyrimai which was performed on September 19-27 is likely one of the last polls in the lead-up to the elections. The data currently shows that a minor majority of respondents would prefer a coalition similar to the current one, made up of the Labour Party, Order and Justice (TT) and the LSDP. The second most popular option is a coalition between the LSDP and LVŽS.

Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political science lecturer Mažvydas Jastramskis points out that it is very important to watch the trajectory of how ratings are developing. In this case the Social Democrats ratings are gradually decreasing, while the “Peasants” and Conservatives’ ratings are slightly increasing. The expert points out that while the three parties are currently evenly matched, the Social Democrats have reason to be worried as their ratings have been consistently decreasing over the past half year, particularly given the Lithuanian tendency of “punishing” the incumbent coalition parties. This is also in part due to a lack of voter confidence, with those still sitting on the fence typically voting for the expected winner.

Jastramskis notes that the LSDP is starting to fall behind due to their lacklustre response to the scandals currently battering the ministerial cabinet and due to their support for the vastly unpopular Labour Code.

The Vytautas Magnus University professor Lauras Bielinis highlights the unending attacks on the LSDP from various angles, ranging from the news media to the opposition parties. He stresses that this naturally lowers the party’s ratings. “Such a trajectory [decreasing ratings] can be explained by the constant attacks against the Social Democrats. It was far more intense than that directed at the Conservatives, while there were practically no attacks against the “Peasants”. Thus we shouldn’t be surprised the LSDP ratings decreased, but rather that they have managed to weather the attack from both news media and their opponents,” explained L. Bielinis.

Recent highlights
· Overruled Presidential veto and passing of the new Labour Code (September 14)

· The so-called “Golden fork” scandal rocks the Ministry of National Defence (Public Procurement Office press release made available on August 30)

· PM speaks up about the unsatisfactory relations with the President Dalia Grybauskaitė (September 5) and claims that a putsch was organised during his holiday (September 12)

· Showing photo ID when purchasing alcohol made mandatory in shopping centres, this is commonly associated with the cabinet.

Leaders and the second group

With the mixed voting system Lithuania has, only half of the members of Seimas will be elected in the first round. 70 members are elected in the multi-mandate electoral districts, while 71 in the single-mandate ones.

Based on the survey data, Algirdas Butkevičius’ LSDP would receive the most votes currently, a total of 15.6%, which is 1.6% less than a month ago. The lead the Social Democrats hold is no longer particularly large with Ramūnas Karbauskis’ LVŽS being the second most popular, with poll data suggesting it will earn 14% of the vote, which is incidentally an increase of 1.6% over last month. Gabrielius Landsbergis’ TS-LKD may be a little further behind, with poll data suggesting it will earn 13.7% of the vote, but this is an increase of 3.2% compared to last month.

Spinter Tyrimai head Ignas Zokas highlights that there are basically three parties in equal starting positions, those mentioned above and then a small group of parties congregated at around the 5% mark needed for parties to enter Seimas.

The most popular party in this second group is Valentinas Mazuronis’ led Labour Party, which is at 5.2% (a decrease from 6.6%). Remigijus Šimašius’ Liberal Movement has settled at the 5% mark (a decrease from 6.3%). Rolandas PaksasOrder and Justice Party dropped to 4.9% (was 5.1%).

Going further down the list we see the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Kristupas Krivickas and Naglis Puteikis rising from 3.3% last month to 4.6% in the newest poll. That said it is important to keep in mind that coalitions have to earn at least 7% of the vote to enter Seimas.

The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families’ Union can expect 4.2% of the vote (a decrease from 4.7% last month), the Lithuanian Freedom Union – 2.5% (was 3%).

Another 2.5% of interviewees would vote for other parties, 16.3% do not intend to vote and 11.5% are unsure or did not answer the question.

Secondary picks

The poll also asked what would the individual’s second option be as this helps reveal which parties have the potential to attract extra votes. The Social Democrats would be the second pick for 16.9% of respondents, the LVŽS for 13.8%, the Liberal Movement for 11.1%, N. Puteikis and K. Krivickas’ coalition – 10%.

The Labour party would be an alternative choice for 7.4% of respondents, Order and Justice for 7.2%, the Lithuanian Freedom Union for 5.3%.

Those least likely to earn second chance votes were the TS-LKD and Electoral Action of Poles, respectively being the second alternative for 3.8% and 2.5% of voters.

A rather large number, 22% of respondents, did not select an alternate party they would vote for.

Coalition perspectives

14% of respondents stated that the current coalition or perhaps with amendments would be their preferred election outcome. The current coalition has been formed by the LSDP, the Labour Party and Order and Justice.

In second place is a coalition between the “Peasants” and the LSDP, with 13.1% of respondents expressing preference for it. The other likely coalition option, that of the TS-LKD and the “Peasants” receives support from 6% of poll takers, which is less than for a coalition between the “Peasants” and the Liberal Movement (6.8%). A “rainbow coalition” composed of the Conservatives and Social Democrats would be preferred by 1.9% of respondents. Another 20.5% of respondents did not have a preference for any of the coalitions suggested in the poll, while 31.7% were unsure or did not answer.

As mentioned by Delfi before, two main coalition options are currently being considered, either the LSDP with the LVŽS or the TS-LKD with the LVŽS. The LVŽS envoy to the LSDP is the party frontrunner Saulius Skvernelis, while Party Chairman R. Karbauskis is more inclined toward the Conservatives. Both of these coalitions could be joined by the Liberal Movement, if it manages to exceed the 5% vote barrier.

The public opinion and market research company Spinter Tyrimai undertook the poll on September 19-27, 2016 under commission from Delfi. Participants were aged between 18 and 75, using a standardised interview at 65 points in Lithuania, distributed to reflect the entire country’s territory. 1013 respondents were interviewed.

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