A year of party decline: numbers reveal an uncomfortable truth

At the Parliament DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

The Gintautas Paluckas’ Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) remains Lithuania’s largest political party with a membership of 16,545 members. However, both the LSDP and the other parties in decline in Lithuania in membership this year, with only two political powers – the Freedom Party and the Russian Alliance seeing their numbers augmented, Viktorija Rimaitė wrote in lrytas.lt.

Top five contains a collapsing political power

According to Ministry of Justice data, on October 1, the LSDP remained the most numerous party in Lithuania. That said, at the same time this party was the one to lose the largest number of members over the past half-year (from March 1, 2019, to October 1, 2019), losing 541 members over the period.

Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Social Democrat Labour Party (LSDDP), which broke away from the LSDP in autumn 2017, cannot boast of such high membership – according to the newest data, the party numbers 3,394 members, with a loss of 22 party members over half a year.

The second most numerous Lithuanian political party is the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) with a membership of 13,931 members. In third is the Labour Party with 11,495 members listed.

The Order and Justice party, which is facing fracturing, collapse and internal discord has retained 11,036 members and stands in fourth. Over the past half a year, “Order and Justice” lost 168 members. According to political scientist, Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) docent Vytautas Dumbliauskas, this political party is a puzzle on the Lithuanian political arena.

“It is sometimes difficult overall to place it on the left-right scale. It’s as if Rolandas Paksas’ party and despite R. Paksas disappearing from it, the voters and members remained,” the political scientist observed.

Almost all contracted, only two increased

According to the newest data from the Ministry of Justice, currently, there are 25 parties operating in Lithuania. Three of them, the Samogitians’ Party, political party Trade Union Centre and Lithuanian Russian Union have not presented the necessary data to indicate membership increases or decreases.

Only two political parties – the recently founded Freedom Party led by Aušrinė Armonaitė and the Russian Alliance have grown. The Freedom Party saw its membership increase by 567 over the last six months, while the Russian Alliance’s growth was far more modest, with only 3 new members. Overall, these two political parties members number 2,910 and 2,007 members respectively.

The remaining parties experienced contraction: the greatest contraction occurred in the LSDP, while the Labour Party lost 349 members, 318 members withdrew from the Liberal Movement and the TS-LKD lost 240 members.

Why political parties in decline in Lithuania

Political scientist V. Dumbliauskas noted that the political parties in decline in Lithuania are testament to clear scepticism toward parties. People, according to the MRU docent, are disappointed in the parties’ activities, in which they currently see much meaningless, empty behaviour.

“The “Farmer” party, to which its leader Ramūnas Karbauskis brought a group of coincidental figures and took it all to Seimas, is not displaying good results. Furthermore, there are talks that they are non-partisan, seemingly apolitical, perhaps more technocratic – there is no value basis. People have a keen grasp of this and at the same time, it makes them disappointed in politics and political activities. People see that there is no serious politics – politics is a discussion on public problems and the pursuit of solutions to such problems.

Seimas groups and parties are also collapsing, with the Social Democrats and “Order and Justice” being examples. This also causes disappointment and rejection,” V. Dumbliauskas told lrytas.lt.

The political scientist also observed that people typically see no meaning to waste their time and other resources in joining non-parliamentary parties. Party membership is retained by parliamentary parties because, according to V. Dumbliauskas, people, who are members of a parliamentary party, can feel equal to faces that are well known in politics and this, in some cases, attracts people.

“Farmers” do not reach even 5 thousand members

According to the newest data, the ruling Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS) currently has 4,329 members. Half a year ago, the party’s members list contained 4,352 individuals, which is a decrease of 23 members over six months.

According to the political scientist, the small decrease in the ruling party’s membership is linked to not only the dubious actions of the ruling party and political decisions that face criticism, nor just the disputes between party chairman R. Karbauskis and Seimas Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis, who was nominated by the party and recently withdrew from it.

“The LVŽS was always a party, which was more along the edges, rather than the centre and obtained its electorate more in the regions. R. Karbauskis’ proposal to lower the bar in Seimas elections to 3% is an indicator of an indirect concern that the party will not overcome a higher bar,” V. Dumbliauskas stated.

As a reminder, as per current regulations, parties receive Seimas mandates if they obtain at least 5% of the vote in the multi-mandate electoral district.

What is curious is that the most numerous in the current term’s Seimas LVŽS has fewer members than the little recognised Emigrants’ Party, which has 4,413 members.

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