M. Jastramskis reveals, why the “Farmers” won the elections: who is in centre matters

Mažvydas Jastramskis
DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

“The party’s positioning is important, in other terms, what party appears in the so called centre. A simple example: if the Conservtives‘ voters come to the second round, they will rather choose the Social Democrat than the Labour Party representative. Equally, if a Labour Party supporter goes to elections, he will rather choose a Social Democrat than a Homeland Union representative.

The position occupied in the second round matters. Who takes it? It is hard to say for every election, but it appears that in the last elections, the central position was taken by the “Farmers”, who pushed the Social Democrats out. In other terms, Conservative voters, if they had to choose between the Social Democrats and “Farmers” opted for the “Farmers”. Social Democrat voters, given the choice of “Farmers” and Conservatives, chose the “Farmers”,” M. Jastramskis said on Friday in an annual Lithuanian political scientist conference.

Forecasting failure or exception in Lithuanian voters’ behaviour?

In the VU TSPMI discussions Do the Seimas election regulations need to change?, M. Jastramskis presented research, which compared the parties’ ratings prior to the 2016 Seimas elections and the results obtained in the elections. The political scientist observed that the aforementioned elections were an exception in this regard.

“If the “Farmers'” survey average was around 18%, their real result was 21.5%. While the 3% difference does not look exceptional, but for example surveys showed that the Social Democrats would get around 23% in the elections, but only got 14%, a 9% difference,” the VU TSPMI docent noted.

According to him, the 2016 elections showed that a mixed parliamentary election system in Lithuania has an influence on the election results.

“For example, people in Lithuania, regardless of their support for a party, can vote for a person from a different person from a different party in the single mandate district,” M. Jastramskis noted.

According to the political scientist, another ten countries use a similar electoral system to Lithuania, however the behaviour of Lithuanian voters is an exception because despite having a similar electoral system, South Korea, Senegal and other countries display completely different trends.

According to M. Jastramskis, the research revealed that the unique behaviour of Lithuanian voters could be linked to the people’s desire for changes.

“We asked people, why they voted for a specific party. Compared to a similar research in Germany, Lithuania is unique in that Lithunia likely has a phenomenon from post-communist states – the second most frequent answer after adherence to a party is the desire for change, new faces, new wings. This is very unique for Lithuania,” M. Jastramskis noted, adding that such attitudes make forecasting elections difficult.

The research notes, according to M. Jastramskis, that in terms of party leaders, “Farmer” Ramūnas Karbauskis was most favourably viewed by inconsistent voters, that is to say, those who desire change.

When talking about the mixed Seimas elections system, M. Jastramskis noted that most surprising for him is voting in single mandate electoral districts in the second round.

“The “Farmers” obtained a record. Regardless of only 19% of voters supporting them in the first round, after the second round they obtained almost half the seats in the single mandate districts,” the political scientist pointed to the 2016 Seimas elections as an example.

Summarising the research, M. Jastramskis emphasised that the Lithuanian parliamentary election system leads to a large number of votes being discarded.

“On one hand, Lithuania has very disproportionate election results, but on the other hand it has very many parties, which would mean that in literature this would be called “the worst possible effect.” IN other terms, our electoral system leads to us tossing very many votes into the trash can and on the other hand, we have very many parties,” M. Jastramskis commented.

Estonians exemplified

Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) chairman Gintautas Paluckas, who participatd in the discussion, stated that parties cannot not change when competing.

“I do not believe that it is a choice of parties. It is a matter of supply and demand. (…) No organisation has the luxury to not change,” G. Paluckas noted.

Conservative MP Laurynas Kasčiūnas did not conceal that he noticed voter inconsistency when participating in the elections himself.

“In the first round I had a good result. I would not have really recognised my opponent from the “Farmers”. But in the second round the result was 45% against 55%. I wondered if it is a problem of me or a problem of Dzūkija,” L. Kasčiūnas recalled.

That said, according to the politician, the situation could change in the 2020 Seimas elections and the “Farmers” should not expect triumph because, the conservative MP believes, their image will have changed.

Meanwhile, political scientist, LSDP member Liutauras Gudžinskas reminded of former Social Democrats MP Juozas Bernatonis‘ idea to change the electoral system in Lithuania, employing the Estonian system instead. In Estonia, its 101 members of parliament are elected in only the single mandate electoral district, with voters being able to rate one candidate from a set list.

“Democracies die slowly and die due to populists, demagogues, anti-democrats, who penetrate into the democratic system. (…) I do not have a clear variant, what the electoral reform should be like, bu the Estonian variant is an option,” L. Gudžinskas said.

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