On attempts to dismantl Tomaszewski‘s monopoly on ethnic minorities

Waldemar Tomaszewski
DELFI / Domantas Pipas

A part of members of Seimas are considering the possibility to reduce the vote requirement for parties based on ethnic minorities. According to one of the idea‘s backers Andrius Kubilius of the Conservatives, this would enable liberal and pro-European parties based on minority groups to participate in Seimas elections, Alfa.lt reported.

Looking for pro-European Russian and Polish parties

Currently parties that wish to enter Seimas must gather at least 5% of the electoral vote in the multi-mandate district. However the May 3rd group comprised of 26 parliamentarians from various parties has proposed a discussion on reducing the barrier to 2-3%.

A. Kubilius explains that the idea could be beneficial in that it would allow political parties representing ethnic minorities to enter Seimas without having to join forces with third parties, some which leave the minority parties vulnerable to Kremlin influence. Furthermore by reducing the barrier, he points out it will allow Lithuanian Polish voters to choose to support other ethnic parties rather than Waldemar Tomaszewski’s LLRA, perhaps parties that are more liberal and pro-European.

Social Democrat – much explanatory work will be needed

Another support of the idea and member of the May 3rd group, Gediminas Kirkilas has told the news portal Alfa.lt that he personally supports the initiative because the interests of Poles and Russians can differ in Lithuania thus it’s unwise to force the two groups to merge under the banner of Waldemar Tomaszewski during Seimas elections.

Kirkilas points out that this a European practice present elsewhere and would provide an opportunity for the Polish and Russian communities to participate in the Seimas elections as separate entities, rather than together as is now, albeit he notes that it would be best if the representatives of minorities would act from the country’s major parties.

The politician does, however, admit that if the idea is included in the Seimas agenda, it will be difficult to pass, requiring much explanatory work because passions tend to become exaggerated in such questions and many have a fairly narrow viewpoint such as supposed threats to the Lithuanian language, rather than a broader perspective of Lithuania’s geopolitical positions and the context of Polish-Lithuanian relations.

“Farmer” representative – it is unclear why tensions are being raised

Representing the largest Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union, Povilas Urbšys told the Alfa.lt portal that he is sceptical of the initiative brought forth by the May 3rd group. This is because the ethnic groups in question have not complained of their current situation and this sort of topic could deepen tensions between ethnic groups rather than reducing them. He points out that neither the LLRA or the Russian Alliance have any real complaints on the matter.

Urbšys stresses that political movements that are more West inclined can show initiative even now, but are not doing so. According to the politician if there were several ethnic minority based parties who were simply failing to enter Seimas due to the vote barriers present, the arrangement could be moved ahead with, but for now it is an artificial process.

Political scientist – unclear if this will receive support

Political scientist Vincentas Vobolevičius believes that while it is currently unclear if the initiative to reduce the vote barrier specifically for minority parties will be effective and will lead to the creation of pro-European Polish parties, there is little room for optimism because ethnic Poles and Russians running in elections with traditional parties have had little success.

According to the expert it is an empirical question, whether there would be sufficiently many people of ethnic minority background who could create an ethnic based pro-European party. Vobolevičius points out that those who could and aren’t aligned with Waldemar Tomaszewski are already working with current parties. Furthermore Vobolevičius cautions that the reduced entry barrier could allow radical pro-Moscow political forces to enter Seimas under the guise of ethnic minority parties.

Political scientist Lauras Bielinis observes an alternative benefit to such a proposal – reductions to entry barriers could allow unrepresented ethnic minorities to enter Seimas, ones eclipsed by Lithuanians, Poles and Russians. Such minorities could be Ukrainians or Belarussians for example.

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