Delfi’s Dėmesio Centre featured Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) party chairman Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) chairman Gintautas Paluckas, Lithuanian Republic Liberal Movement chairman Eugenijus Gentvilas and Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS) vice chairman Virginijus Sinkevičius.
Following the elections, G. Landsbergis described it as modest victory for his party, noting a growth in the party’s number of mandates and mayor candidates that entered the second round of mayoral elections. At the same time, the Conservative chairman admitted there are unmistakeable challenges.
In terms of his party’s performance, G. Paluckas believes that the elections were successful for the Social Democrats, albeit the victory was darkened by failed bids in the major cities, which he notes brings some concern even while the party is content with the results.
E. Gentvilas reiterates that the Liberal Movement has been in intensive care for a time now, but says that the party has entered rehabilitation and is set to get back on track. He notes how surveys showed the Liberals ranked 6-8 among the country’s political parties, however he states that his pre-election prediction of the Liberals coming fourth came true.
Vice chairman of the LVŽS V. Sinkevičius also hearkens back to the 2015 municipal elections. He points out how the party has gained a further 90 mandates and will have fourfold more mayor candidates [16, up from 4] in the second round of mayoral elections compared to last elections. “I believe that without a doubt, this is large growth and much trust for the Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union. I think that we are firmly becoming the strongest centre-left power in the large cities,” he noted.
Overall, the municipal elections are seen as having been won by civic electoral committees, taking a combined quarter of the vote across the country. G. Landsbergis points out that such a victory for the individual committees could have been predicted because in many cases, incumbent mayors have either won in the first round or firmly entered the second.
The TS-LKD chairman also remarks that the LVŽS received a combined 130 thousand votes in the municipal elections versus 260 thousand in the last Seimas elections and also how opposition parties have taken 675 municipal mandates across the country versus the majority’s 303. “The prime minister said that these elections are a sort of exam. So, in other words, this exam was failed,” G. Landsbergis concluded.
G. Paluckas disagrees with V. Sinkevičius’ claim that the “Farmers” have become the strongest centre-left power, stating, “We should look at numbers rather than imagine that one or another party is the largest and strongest centre-left or centre-right party. The numbers currently clearly show that the Social Democrats are the centre-left party, which received the most support across the country, winning the most mayor seats in the first round, largest municipal council majorities and having the most chances to win in the second round. […] First of all, it is clear that we have endured the psychological and emotional pressure after the divorce, when we were accused of fracturing, having a walkout. Looking at prospects, it clearly shows that the “Farmers” will not be able to take the mantle of the largest and strongest centre-left party because facts say otherwise.”
When asked if these latest municipal elections can be seen as proof that Lithuania no longer has one single dominant political power, E. Gentvilas responded that this is a good thing. At the same time, he believes that in regard to the success of committees, he finds it to be a result of citizens’ irresponsibility and misunderstanding as well as politicians’ manipulations.
In regard to claims that these elections have ended the “Farmers'” domination of the Lithuanian political field, V. Sinkevičius disagreed. He reiterates how the party increased its number of municipal council mandates from 138 to 228 and furthermore points out that while G. Paluckas boasted of the Social Democrats’ fortunes, the party lost 20% of its support. “You call this success? I am prepared to lose in every municipal election and receive 90 ore mandates, while they can go ahead and win with 20% fewer,” the politician remarked.
In the lead up to the municipal elections, LVŽS chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis boasted that his party would win all this year’s elections and would obtain 300 mandates in municipal councils as well as a slew of mayor seats. In line with this, G. Paluckas stated, “It is a clear fact – the “Farmers” will not win a single election this year despite promising to win three. It’s clear. The trends we are currently seeing in the municipal elections, they will transfer to the European Parliament elections. Where committees will not be participating, votes will redistribute themselves and certainly not to the benefit of the “Farmers”. They see it, they know it and it irritates them. But all these expectations were raised by the party chairman himself.” In response to this, V. Sinkevičius simply reiterated that he could not describe a gain of 90 mandates as a loss.
With the party obtaining fewer mayor seats than it expected, thus potentially receiving the support of fewer municipalities in the coming presidential elections, V. Sinkevičius nevertheless pointed out that the presidential elections are a whole different matter.
“People vote for personalities. The Conservatives nominated Ingrida Šimonytė, Gitanas Nausėda is with who knows what party, we have Saulius Skvernelis, who is non-partisan, but backed by the “Farmers”. Without a doubt, every individual’s support is important, but primarily people will decide based on the candidates’ work, their programmes. I believe that is the key matter, not thinking how in Kelmė the number of “Farmer” representatives declined from 10 to 4 and that it will influence the presidential elections. I really doubt it,” the LVŽS vice chairman stated.
To this, G. Landsbergis pointed out that in the end, gathering signatures, mobilising voters, volunteers and organising other matters takes a strong structure and at the same time the LVŽS candidate Saulius Skvernelis has been struggling with such matters, leading to use of government resources to that end.
The LSDP presidential candidate Vytenis Andriukaitis is currently not viewed as among the favourites to take the office of president. G. Paluckas emphasises that this could be related to the candidate currently not being in the country and continuing work in the European Commission, which limits his options. The LSDP chairman stated that V. Andriukaitis is to return in early April, which is when he will start actively campaigning.
G. Paluckas believes that V. Andriukaitis could be a rival to S. Skvernelis and by gathering ten percent of the vote perhaps even pushing out Skvernelis out of the race. “You ask if we are competitors to Saulius Skvernelis and I say – yes, we are the main competitors. If Vytenis manages to gather 10 or more percent, then Saulius Skvernelis will likely not reach the second round due to this,” the LSDP chairman said.
In terms of the Liberal Movement presidential candidate Petras Auštrevičius‘s bid, which some view as campaigning for his participation in the European Parliament elections, E. Gentvilas was unwilling to comment.
As a closing note, V. Sinkevičius added that he believes that the only major first round threat to S. Skvernelis is Valdemar Tomaševski, not Vytenis Andriukaitis.