The Farmer and Greens Union won the Seimas elections by a landslide. A victory or at least good performance was expected, but not to this extent.
After the elections the Farmer Greens, unlike other parties, were left 874 euro in debt.
During the election campaign the party was aided by the company VIP Viešosios Informacijos Partneriai and public relations specialist Darius Gudelis, who put together a strategy for the party to win. This strategy has now been revealed.
It turns out the election goals set were exceeded by a large margin. The expectation was to win 20 seats in Seimas with Saulius Skvernelis becoming Prime Minister, winning at least 10% of the vote in Vilnius and obtaining three seats from the Kaunas electoral districts.
Kaunas was not chosen randomly. Based on the strategic plan, historically Kaunas is the deciding town in elections. This is why the Farmer Greens’ Chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis ran in the Šilainiai district of Kaunas.
It was decided to direct the campaign toward the market, that is to say to offer such leaders, public policy goals and values that most appeal to voters. In other words a campaign based on what the voters want, adapting to them and speaking what they want to hear, rather than having a vision for Lithuania. One “Farmer” representative described it as simple populism, which similarly won the election for Donald Trump and Brexit supporters.
Let’s say the “Farmers” anti-alcohol campaign is not a fabrication. Initially the party commissioned research, which showed that 58% of voters would support raising excises on alcohol even if it led to its price rising. 70.6% of respondents supported combatting alcoholism even if it meant forced treatment.
Equally it was identified that the team needs a popular leader since R. Karbauskis appeals to regional, not city dwellers. Based on this the popular then Minister of the Interior S. Skvernelis was invited, while he was working in the Social Democrat Algirdas Butkevičius government.
Research was performed which showed that the public wants non-partisan leaders, thus specifically non-partisan candidates described as professionals became the “Farmers” main advantage in the elections.
The “Farmers” were also advised to eschew Eurosceptic views because such a stance is unpopular. They were also advised to speak of problems the Lithuanian people care about – dignity, emigration and social segregation.
It was decided that S. Skvernelis would appeal more to voters in larger cities, while R. Karbauskis – to those of smaller towns and villages.
With S. Skvernelis running in Vilnius it was expected to win at least 10% of the vote in the capital.
The results exceeded all expectations. The Farmer and Greens Union won a total of 59 mandates. 19 were won in the multi-mandate electoral district, 35 – in the single mandate districts. Another 5 single mandate district winners joined the Farmer and Greens group after the elections – Naglis Puteikis, Povilas Urbšys, Bronislovas Matelis, Darius Kaminskas and Raimundas Martinėlis.
That said the group has now lost B. Matelis who withdrew from the group and Greta Kildišienė who relinquished her mandate. Currently the party’s Seimas group has 56 members and Seimas Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis who formally does not belong to the group.
The “Farmers” took 11.77% of the vote in Vilnius. S. Skvernelis became Prime Minister, while V. Pranckietis – Seimas Speaker, a coalition was formed with the bled out Social Democrats.
Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science lecturer Mažvydas Jastramskis states that there is no scientific research suggesting that Kaunas is the deciding city in the election results of all of Lithuania, though in retrospective in this election it seemingly was true.
He notes that the victories in Kaunas’ electoral districts have distanced the “Farmers” from the Conservatives.
In 2008 the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats won the elections in the multi-mandate district. In Kaunas they won in 7 of 8 districts, while earning the most votes from Kaunas in the multi-mandate district. The hypothesis was true that year as well.
In 2012 the Seimas elections in the multi-mandate district were won by the Labour Party, while based on mandate numbers – the Social Democrats. However none of their candidates won in Kaunas. The Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats took all eight districts in Kaunas this time and once again were the most popular party in the city in the multi-mandate district voting, albeit less so than in 2008.
The Farmer Greens who worked on the 2016 electoral campaign say that the victory of Visvaldas Matijošaitis in the 2015 municipal elections perfectly demonstrated that Kaunas is inclined to turn away from the Conservatives.
In 2016 the “Farmers” took six single mandate districts in Kaunas, failing to only take one where the Conservative leader Gabrielius Landsbergis ran. It is of note that this time the district borders were redrawn prior to this election, reducing the number of districts to seven.
One Farmer and Greens Union campaign representatives told Delfi that Kaunas was held to be an achievable major city for the “Farmers” unlike Vilnius, where the party is typically hampered by the word “farmer” in its name. Kaunas voters are less anti-rural.
A campaign representative explains that R. Karbauskis is associated with the Farmer Greens more than S. Skvernelis, being the party’s chairman, as well as a farmer himself, making it better for him to run in Kaunas because the electorate would be more receptive of him, while Skvernelis had better chances as a more liberal leader in the capital.
Public relations expert D. Gudelis states that Kaunas was the city most disappointed with partisan tradition, this clearly displayed during the 2015 municipal elections. This is why the city was ready to accept a political power promising to bring non-partisan professionals into government.
“Kaunas was set as a priority because it has the most disappointment with traditional parties – both the Social Democrats and the Conservatives. This is why the municipal elections were won by an independent group there,” D. Gudelis summarised.