Political scientists draw a portrait of participants at the Family March

Family portrait ‘In Nature’ © Adas Vasiliauskas

In May 15, some 10 thousand participants of the Big Family Defence March, who arrived at Vingis Park in Vilnius, chanted “Out with Seimas”, demanded the removal of certain questions from the Seimas agenda. Political scientists muse that most of the participants in the event were conservative individuals irked by the initiatives being put forward by the Freedom Party. They also note that pandemic management questions would not have mobilised this many participants, lrytas.lt reported.

Presenting demands

The protest’s participants presented their demands at the event’s end. The organisers demanded for the Seimas to not deliberate on ratifying the Istanbul Convention, also to not present the partnership law project for consideration.

Demands were made to remove from the Seimas agenda the minor quantity of narcotics and ethnic minority law project. Also – to reopen all schools for contact learning.

Furthermore, the demand was made to dismiss ministers Evelina Dobrovolska, Aušrinė Armonaitė and Arūnas Dulkys.

Old divisions

Lithuanian War Academy (LKA) docent, political scientist Vytautas Isoda mused that the Big Family Defence March predominantly featured voters who were discontent with the work of the current ruling bloc.

The political scientist believes that it is likely that the protesters included ultra-right or conservative individuals. According to him, voters from various parties – ranging from the “Farmers” to the Conservatives – could have appeared at the protest.

“The participants were primarily those who are disappointed with the situation in the country, with the planned changes. Perhaps to them, Lithuanian society is changing too quickly, they struggle to understand [the proposed changes],” V. Isoda spoke.

The political scientist mused that the march could have, on average, featured statistically less-educated, lower-income voters.

He points out that the Istanbul Convention, which the organisers said they were protesting, might have been the factor, which aggravated old divisions in society.

“All societies have these. In our society, there might be a lack of tolerance for difference of opinion and the Istanbul Convention opened those questions up for all to see,” he emphasised.

Most sensitive questions

He was echoed by Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) docent, political scientist Vytautas Dumbliauskas. According to him, the protest could have featured the Conservatives’ or the “Farmers’” voters who usually support traditional values.

The political scientist believes that the drafting of the ongoing drafting of the partnership law and the Istanbul Convention were the main factors behind the march.

“I think this was an irritant from the Freedom Party. It is too early, our society has yet to mature enough for partnership issues,” V. Dumbliauskas mused.

According to him, the citizens’ discontent could have arisen due to various reasons – the people are angry over the quarantine, over lost jobs and income, but he believes that solely these questions would not have drawn in so many people.

“The quarantine is being relaxed, vaccination is underway. I believe the situation is under control. I think that Freedom Party irritated a certain segment,” V. Dumbliauskas said.

V. Isoda also said he believes that if the country was currently governed by a coalition of the current opposition parties, a protest of this scale would not have happened – primarily because the questions of partnership, the Istanbul Convention would likely be ignored, while pandemic management and the economic circumstances would not have mobilised participants to this degree.

“There were protests in other countries over excessively strict pandemic management measures, over perceived limitations on personal freedoms. In Lithuania, we did not have such protests – most of society is more passive regarding these questions.

While the public was discontent with certain applied measures, the discontent was either not that strong or there was no one to organise. However, these [traditional family values] questions are emotionally sensitive for the people,” the political scientist said.

The birth of a party?

According to V. Isoda, this movement could lead to the emergence of a political initiative, but it would only become successful if such rallies were made regular – otherwise, it will be forgotten. “Only if they regularly organised, fired up the public so that there would be enough gunpowder to last to the elections,” V. Isoda predicted.

Meanwhile, political scientist V. Dumbliauskas doubts that this movement could birth a political initiative. The political expert reminds just how much effort it took from current Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis to ensure his party‘s success despite the party’s operations being restored already in 1990 and it having its own base.

“And even if a party was created, I believe it would garner a few per cent of the vote. I think that this political market has been occupied and we have numerous non-parliamentary parties like that,” the political scientist stated.

V. Dumbliauskas said that he only sees chances for political operations if an especially popular leader emerged. “However, I do not see a particularly notable leader among the event organisers,” he said.

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