ELECTIONS. The final battle for single-mandate districts – highlights

N.Puteikis, A.Paleckis, A.Butkevičius, A.Maldeikienė, A.Zuokas
DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

The chairman of the Social Democrat Party, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius will be competing in the second round this time as well. Furthermore, a number of showdowns await between candidates of the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (LVŽS) and the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD).

Delfi has interviewed a number of political analysts and public relations specialists on which districts will contain the greatest and most interesting clashes and who has the greatest chances of coming out victorious.

A. Zuokas’ swan song

The Naujamiestis district will see a face-off between Conservative, former ambassador to the US Žygimantas Pavilionis (43.14% in the first round) and Olympic champion, now representative for the Liberal Movement Virgilijus Alekna (18.91%).

“I believe that currently there is a clear lead for Pavilionis and he will have little difficulty in earning the mandate. The Naujamiestis district is fairly pro-Conservative, previously Irena Degutienė has won here, so the support of traditional voters should suffice for Pavilionis.

Furthermore those voting from abroad see him as a formerly active ambassador, so he will also receive much support from there. Meanwhile Alekna, while being well-known and respected as one of the best sportsmen in Lithuania, an excellent person, but a part of the electorate still cannot really picture him as a professional politician,” says Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science (VU TSPMI) lecturer Tomas Janeliūnas.

The Senamiestis district will feature a showdown between Conservative Mykolas Majauskas (35.07%) and Lithuanian Freedom Union leader Artūras Zuokas (16.70%). Failing to win, the latter would be left without a Seimas mandate because his party has only gathered 2.14% of the vote in the multi-mandate district, which is not enough, given the 5% vote entry barrier.

“M. Majauskas has more chances. Zuokas has not been able to win in this district since 2009 and there are no signs of him being able to regain his popularity. The Conservative candidates won two of the past elections in this district, so I think that this time too they will win here,” predicts Janeliūnas.

Paleckis to celebrate a victory?

An interesting battle awaits in the Žirmūnai district. A clash between List of Lithuania representative, economist Aušra Maldeikienė (22.33%) and Conservative Vilija Aleknaitė-Abramikienė (20.16%) awaits. According to Janeliūnas, the Žirmūnai district in Vilnius is possibly the most pro-Social Democrat (excluding Naujoji Vilnia). In 2012, it was the only district where a candidate of the Lithuanian Social Democrat Party (LSDP), Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis managed to win.

“Aleknaitė-Abramikienė also has a great deal of support here, has won a number of elections. Žirmūnai contains a fairly large contingent of liberal voters. However it is doubtful whether the majority of them will support Aleknaitė-Abramikienė because she represents the more orthodox Conservatives, which is unappealing to the liberal voter. Without their support it is hard for her to expect the support of other party electorates.

She could earn a victory through consolidation between the Conservative electorate. Nevertheless I think that A. Maldeikienė has the capacity to bring in far more voters, those missing the defender of the slighted,” said the political analyst.

The Fabijoniškės district’s voters will be choosing between Conservative Vytautas Kernagis (30.41%) and Liberal Dalia Kuodytė (12.77%).

“V. Kernagis’ lead is fairly large. The district was won by the Conservatives in 2012 as well, the likelihood of this trend continuing is quite large. D. Kuodytė is an experienced politician, however it would be difficult for her to be “loved by the people”, thus it is doubtful whether leftist voters would support her. As such I would “bet” on Kernagis, who it would appear is helped not just by his youthful drive, but also people’s respect for his father, the late maestro Vytautas Kernagis [sr.],” predicts Janeliūnas.

LVŽS frontrunner Saulius Skvernelis (30.08%) and Conservative Kęstutis Masiulis (21.93%) will be facing off in the Karoliniškės district. “Comparing general popularity in the public sphere, Skvernelis is far more favoured than Masiulis. But in this district the Conservatives always gather quite a few votes, thus it is no surprise to find Masiulis in the second round. Nevertheless I doubt that the Conservative vote will suffice for him, while he has little potential to attract the supporters of other parties. Skvernelis should win,” believes the political analyst.

A principle fight will be happening in the Naujoji Vilnia district. Infamous for his denial of the Sausis 13th events, Algirdas Paleckis (23.08%) and Conservative Monika Navickienė (22.99%) will be competing for a mandate. Political analyst Mažvydas Jastramskis believes that Paleckis will be the one to celebrate a victory here.

“Paleckis’ lead is not large, but this district is dominated by national minorities, which makes things difficult for the TS-LKD candidate,” predicts Jastramskis.

A. Butkevičius to compete in the second round

The Vilkaviškis district has posted an unexpected result – PM Butkevičius will have to compete in the second round. Based on final Central Electoral Commission (VRK) data he was supported by 36.28% of voters, while his closest rival in the district, LVŽS representative Kęstutis Smirnovas took 27.24% of the vote.

“Let us remember that the PM is still one of the most popular politician according to polls. Him having to compete in the second round shows that there is no direct correlation or transfer from national fame to victory in his district,” spoke public relations specialist Arijus Katauskas.

According to the expert, the PM’s distancing from the district lost him a large amount of votes. “If you are not participating in direct meetings, are not present in the district and your voters do not see you, it appears that it is particularly harmful. I have interacted with many people from the regions over the past year due to work. The people themselves are very interested in direct communication, interaction closer to them. This does not necessarily mean meetings, one should not forget regional news media.

This is a distancing from problems, to recognise that I am being spoken about. That he talks about problems in Lithuania is one thing, but that he doesn’t talk about my problems, this is where it hurts most. Yes, the PM has more chances. But that the leader of the incumbent coalition government and PM has to fight in the second round in the district where he’d won in the first round for several elections in a row, this shows that perhaps the large amount of negative information in national news media had an impact, competitors used his lack of attention.”

The LVŽS phenomenon: a few districts where famous politicians were beaten
There are a few interesting districts where the “Peasant” phenomenon came into play with less known candidates defeating well known politicians.

The Kaišiadorys-Elektrėnai district saw Laimutė Matkevičienė lead against Conservative Mantas Adomėnas, with respectively 24.75% against 20.60% of votes.

The Aukštaitija district saw “Peasant” Guoda Burokienė take 27.55% of the vote against Conservative Rasa Juknevičienė who took 25.19% of the vote.

“It appears that the Greens crown played its game far more successfully. Nevertheless we should not chalk it all up to the phenomenon of Skvernelis and Karbauskis, we should evaluate that communication in the regions was sufficiently strong,” spoke Katauskas.

According to him, it is hard to predict, whether well-known politicians will resist the Peasant and Greens in the second round: “Perhaps now it will come down to the support or lack of from other parties. The Greens who communicated change and the Conservatives who communicated change now have the most people competing in the second round. Now we are speaking of whether the Social Democrat voter won’t rush to vote for the Conservatives, but in some districts, while speaking to people, it became clear that voters do not necessarily care about political allegiances. What matters is the candidates themselves. In some locations political allegiances are very important and there a great deal of unpredictability arises, we cannot name a guaranteed victor anywhere.

J. Olekas obstructed by the “golden fork” scandal

The Sudovia district sees Juozas Olekas with 15.83% of the vote trailing behind LVŽS candidate Kęstutis Mažeika who has earned 29.50% of the vote. According to the public relations specialist, the incumbent Minister of National Defence could have been harmed by the scandal which blew by recently.

“This case could have been harmful. The golden fork scandal was very loudly touted and is related to a specific surname. None of the other Social Democrat scandals had a specific surname attached to them. This was not very harmful on a national level, but locally it had an impact. Furthermore, the Greens phenomenon contributes as well,” spoke Katauskas.

P. Gražulis and V. Baltraitienė met with competition

Labour party Minister of Agriculture Virginija Baltraitienė entered the second round of elections with 25.49% of the vote, with independent candidate Darius Kaminskas raising a significant challenge and earning 20.35% of the vote.

“In this election it has become particularly clear that your position, visibility and fame on a national level do not necessarily guarantee a victory in the single-mandate districts. There we have a far smaller number of people, their voting principles are completely different. V. Baltraitienė‘s case shows that overall fame does not imply victories in the single-mandate districts,” said Katauskas.
Petras Gražulis, who usually wins elections to Seimas in the Gargždai district was also met with competition. The Order and Justice member earned 30.27% of the vote, while his competitor from the LVŽ earned 20.89%.

“One town votes for P. Gražulis and with them considering what position he holds for some time now, he was acceptable. Now it looks like there is some sort of movement, but I hesitate to say that it is specifically due to communication,” said Katauskas.

Klaipėda – even face-off between Naglis Puteikis and Simonas Gentvilas

The Klaipėda Danė district sees a close race between the two leading candidates. Naglis Puteikis is leading with 24.26% of the vote, while Liberal Simonas Gentvilas took 23.10% of the vote. According to the communication specialist, this result is unsurprising.

“You should keep in mind all of Puteikis’ work since the presidential elections, there he took a fairly large number of votes across Lithuania. He is a populist, but with experience in Klaipėda, it isn’t the first time he’s running for elections there. Let us be poor, but fair – S. Gentvilas is Eugenijus Gentvilas’ son, but you cannot say more about him. Yes, Klaipėda is a city of Liberals, but the Liberal scandal it appears is harming them in this case,” explained Katauskas.

The Panevėžys Western district saw independent candidate Povilas Urbšys just a step away from a round one victory against Conservative Arvydas Anušauskas, with respectively 47.95% and 16.93% of the vote.

“P. Urbšys has a great deal of experience in Panevėžys, so this result is unsurprising. A. Anušauskas is strong, but the question is why he was crushed like this. I have only one version – this is the first time he is running as a candidate in this district. P. Urbšys is a veteran and has been arranging his communication well there,” spoke Katauskas.

Ž. Pinskuvienė’s campaigning losing effect

The Molėtai-Širvintos district, which used to be one of the bastions of the Labour Party, sees Labour candidate Petras Čimbaras unsure of his victory. He has taken 25.32% of the vote, while his rival Valentinas Stundys took 23.40%. A confident victory failed to arrive for mayor of Širvintai Živilė Pinskuvienė who has been visiting voter’s homes.

“This is a curious case. Širvintos was always held to be a Labour Party town, however we mustn’t forget the methods used and all the scandals. Furthermore in my opinion in the public sphere J. Pinskus and Ž. Pinskuvienė have been gradually applying a mark of losers, not victors on themselves. We saw this with Pinskus’ case in Lazdynai, where he was practically wiped out. Despite all organisational resources being employed in Širvintos, even the mayor herself visiting homes, it appears that this is gradually losing effect. Širvintos are definitely losing positions,“ said Katauskas.

R. Žemaitaitis helped by clear communication

Order and Justice party frontrunner Remigijus Žemaitaitis had a decent performance in the first round. He took 38.03% of the vote in the Southern Samogitia district, versus Conservative Stasys Šedbaras who took 17.14% of the vote.

“R. Žemaitaitis is one of the strongest leaders in the Order and Justice party, clearly he has held a strong position, and furthermore he was fairly visible. Furthermore in my opinion Žemaitaitis is a future leader of the party. And this is a case where the party leader had the best performance. We have to understand that their voters’ perceptions are very different,” spoke Katauskas.

Predictions by Mažvydas Jastramskis

TSPMI docent Mažvydas Jastramskis has predicted that TS-LKD will earn 23 mandates in the single-mandate district, while LVŽS – 24.

The Social Democrats are predicted to earn an extra 9 mandates, Liberal Movement – 5, Order and Justice 0 3, Polish Electoral Action in Lithuania – Christian Families Union – 3, Labour Party – 2. The Analyst also predicts that A. Maldeikienė, A. Paleckis and P. Urbšys.

“I have to be honest and admit that in many single-mandate districts I had to toss a coin. However in the absolute majority of districts I applied the first place rule, which, based on the results of previous elections, shows that winning from second place is very rare (2012 – 10/68, 2008 – 16/68). Where the leads are small, I attempted to take into account the candidates’ personalities. Those elected in the first round are included in the prediction,” said Jastramskis.

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