I said the election would be hard to predict. After repeated requests, I presented certain prognoses, but personally I didn’t take them very seriously because of undecided voters (it is somewhat unfair toward those people, who are unsure who they will vote for, to say that we know who they will vote for). There were bigger and smaller surprises, such as Labour falling out, Order and Justice staying in and the relative success of the Liberal Movement.
Nevertheless the key factor is the lead two parties have taken over all others, both passing 20% of the vote (something no-one managed in the 2008 and 2012 elections). This is the so-called bandwagon effect in play, where voters join perceived winners at the last minute. Foreseeing it in elections is difficult, I did not see a single prognosis suggesting that the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (LVŽS) and Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) will take such a confident lead, while also being this close to one another in votes.
Why? I won’t expand here because I wrote on the unpredictability of the election last week. Overall we have almost no scientific prognoses. They come in three types – statistic modelling (not very viable due to the fluidity of electorates and number of parties), surveys (for objective reasons, but also tend to fail) and prognoses markets (rare even elsewhere in the world, nobody has tried to use it yet here). Everything else is expert observations (even if expert, it isn’t scientific), walks through single-mandate districts, tea leaves and beliefs.
As such I do not present this prognoses as one that is based on detailed calculations and justifications. It is just a walk-by, this semi-novel “method” in political science (specifically in parentheses).
Nevertheless I have a few arguments, why the prognosis is what it is. The situation is fairly unique, the positions of TS-LKD and LVŽS (both in single and multi-mandate electoral districts) is fairly even. What is more interesting is that each has clear advantages and we do not know how they will be realised in this election.
LVŽS is the most popular alternative party option, this is shown by polls made prior to the election. It is said that there could be a voter front against them, akin to that against Labour in 2004 and 2012. I doubt it. The difference is that LVŽS has a more neutral image, Labour focused more on popularity.
A study after the 2012 election showed that the Labour Party is far less well-liked than the LSDP, the other leader in said election. Their evaluation average was somewhat positive, but far smaller than the LSDP’s. Voters who supported neither of these two practically had only one alternative – the TS-LKD. And where the variants were either the LSDP or Labour Party, preferences were asymmetrically against Labour.
Now in the voter segments and districts where the choice is between the LSDP and LVŽS (not necessarily in the second round there is a clear preference (based on the multi-mandate district results and how well LVŽS did in Social Democrat districts) toward the latter. I do not have poll data, but I suspect that the evaluation of the latter is better (do you see the difference compared to 2012 where the Labour Party represented the centre right instead of the LVŽS now?). Furthermore the LVŽS (at least based on leader popularity rankings) will have better evaluations than TS-LKD. The result is such that there will be no front against them because to LSDP voters, the LVŽS is still more familiar than TS-LKD. As for the Liberals in regions, it isn’t clear; those aren’t the Liberals you see in your Facebook environment.
TS-LKD has other arguments. First of all lower activity (it is 34-26% in the second round, smaller still in some districts). A part of the electorates of the LSDP, regional Liberals and other smaller parties may simply not show up.
Not to speak of LVŽS voters who may feel that the matter was settled in the first round. In such a situation the TS-LKD could come out the winner. I say could because in many districts they still come up short, especially given the presence of a clear centre-centre right bloc.
The TS-LKD has achieved impressive voter mobilisation in this election. It is their second argument which combines with the first one. Yesterday I wrote that the percentage of those supporting Gabrielius Landsbergis is almost the same to what the entire party received. Of course there’s strategic balancing, but it’s an impressive overlap.
What happens when both rivals have clear advantages? Correct, the final result ends up roughly even, unless the advantages are distributed disproportionately (for example the TS-LKD electorate concentrates just in Vilnius and is small everywhere else). Nevertheless, given that the Conservatives had decent performances in the regions (and LVŽS in Kaunas), I do not find such a line of thought very strong.
I have to be open and admit that in many single-mandate districts it comes down to a coin toss. That said I lean on the first place rule; those who analysed the results of prior elections will note that a victory from second place is rare (2012 – 10/68, 2008 – 16/68). Where the differences were minor I attempted to take the candidate’s personalities into account. Those elected in the first round are also included in the prognosis.
To some extent, the arrangement of my assumptions decides that prognosis. I believe that the TS-LKD and LVŽS have more or less equal positions prior to the second round. Which is why the final result is completely even. If a mistake makes its way into this, please excuse me, there’s lots of data and writing here.
Vilnius: almost everything (8 mandates) goes to TS-LKD, except Karoliniškės (LVŽS), Naujoji Vilnia (edit: Paleckis’ lead is small, but the district is dominated by national minorities, making things hard for the TS-LKD candidate) and Žirmūnai (Maldeikienė).
Kaunas (including Garliava): 5 go to TS-LKD, 3 to LVŽS (Šilainiai, Kalniečiai, Aleksotas-Vilijampolė).
Klaipėda: 2 for TS-LKD (Baltija and Pajūris), 1 to the Liberal Movement (Danė), 1 to LVŽS (Marios).
Šiauliai (including Kelmė-Šiauliai and Kuršėnai-Dainos): all 4 to LVŽS.
Panevėžys: 2 to LVŽS, 1 to TS-LKD (Nevėžis).
Marijampolė, Alytus: 2 to LVŽS.
Samogitia: two to Order and Justice (Gargždai and South Samogitia), two to LVŽS (Kuršas and Šilutė), two to LSDP (Tauragė and Kretinga-Palanga), 2 to the Liberal Movement (Plungė, Jurbarkas-Pagėgiai), 1 to TS-LKD (Mažeikiai), 1 to Labour (Telšiai).
Top-middle: 2 to LSDP (Sėla, Raseiniai-Kėdainiai), 1 to Labour (Kėdainiai), 3 to LVŽS (Biržai-Kupiškis, Anykščiai-Panevėžys, Radviliškis), 1 to TS-LKD (Pasvalys-Pakruojis), 1 to the Liberal Movement (Žiemgala).
Centre-Aukštaitija-East: 3 to TS-LKD (Utena, Molėtai-Širvintai, Ukmergė), 1 to Order and Justice (Visaginas and Zarasai), 3 to the LLRA (Nemenčinė, Šalčininkai-Vilnius, Medininkai), 2 LVŽS (Kaišiadoriai-Elektrėnai, Nalšios), 1 Liberal Movement (Trakai-Vievis).
Sudovia-Dzūkija: 4 to LSDP (Vilkaviškis, Zanavykai, Prienai-Birštonas, Varėna-Trakai), 3 to LVŽS (Sudovia, Raudondvaris, Lazdijai-Druskininkai), 1 to TS-LKD (Dzūkija).
Thus the final count would be:
• TS-LKD – 43 (23 from single-mandates)
• LVŽS – 43 (24 from single-mandates)
• LSDP – 22 (9 from single-mandates)
• Order and Justice – 8 (3 from single-mandates)
• LLRA – 8 (3 from single-mandates)
• Labour – 2 (2 from single mandates)
• The rest – 2 (Maldeikienė and Paleckis, Urbšys is included with the LVŽS)
Will it be different? Of course it will deviate, perhaps greatly. Something unexpected will happen again, a part of the voters will not show up and will stay at home, and some districts will have a string of random successes in some districts, shifting the result.
Now onto coalitions. Equality is healthy for political stability and democratic processes. It places a firm wedge between the two potential partners and makes them into competitors. If one party had a sizeable lead or clear spheres of influence – LVŽS takes regions, TS-LKD – the cities – we would have a very different situation, perhaps the outlines of a coalition and clear mutual support. Now TS-LKD is climbing into the regions and regional centres, while the LVŽS still needs to finish off (in this election) the LSDP and is making its way into Kaunas and Klaipėda where TS-LKD has trouble with second picks.
Will this wedge mean that the coalition, as seen in some prognoses will be formed between the LVŽS, LSDP and a third (LLRA)? I doubt it, but once again, it is not up to me to foresee how rational politicians will be.
Arguments from the side of the LSDP – they may be unwilling to get involved. They saw in the 2008 elections where seven (eight) years in power lead. Truth be said, they are in a similar crisis after only four years, as in 2008 (the predicted final number of mandates is similar, it was 25 then and may be even smaller this time). The party needs to enter the opposition, change its image, leadership and ideology. They could become kingmakers, crowning the LVŽS and bypassing the TS-LKD, but this is an act of self-destruction.
Arguments from the LVŽS side – voters have demonstrated that they want change. The party will play the card of them being the choice, not the traditional leftists or rightists. But the difference is in the leftists having just been in power and having lost legitimacy. A coalition will be needed one way or another. And it is easier to justify making a coalition with those who earned a mandate from the nation, not lost it. Going into a coalition with the LSDP is to go into a coalition with the recent spoons, Labour Codes (something the LVŽS still opposes), Vijūnėlė’s and so on.
Furthermore there is a question of maintaining heterogeneity in the party roll and future fraction. I doubt that the LVŽS leaders are considering a scenario of total fracturing, why bother with this road at all then. But unavoidably they should consider that some members of Seimas may “detach” even in the first half of the term. If there will be a minimal winning coalition between the TS-LKD and LVŽS, it would mean that the “Peasant” cabinet fails without even starting work. Better to have some Liberals and a larger initial coalition which would have support in the other institution because…
…arguments from the Presidential palace matter, it will want a completely new coalition. And here is a question of how much good will is lost between the President and Skvernelis.
The Liberals could mix things up. Already on the night of elections, Remigijus Šimašius (chairman of the Liberal Movement) visited the Conservative headquarters, it is clear that the Liberals feel an arithmetic coalition may not need them. If they convince the Conservatives to form a unified front against the “Peasants” and pressure them, it could go too far.
But if everyone acts rationally, then we have only three unknowns:
1. Who will earn more mandates in the second round?
2. Who, Saulius Skvernelis or Gabrielius Landsbergis, will become Prime Minister (and respectively Seimas Speaker)?
3. Will the coalition need the Liberals?
But politics is often irrational.