In order to not vanish from Lithuanian political life the Labour Party and the Order and Justice Party have to take up clear value positions, furthermore they should consider finding stronger leaders. Such are recommendations from two experts interviewed by LRT.lt – political scientist Mažvydas Jastramskis and public relations expert Arijus Katauskas.
The latest Vilmorus survey commissioned by Lietuvos Rytas shows that three parties would fail to exceed the 5% vote entry barrier – the Polish Electoral Action in Lithuania – Christian Families Union, Labour Party (DP) and Order and Justice (TT), with their ratings reaching only around 2%.
The Labour Party may be the most numerous political power in Lithuania, with over 20 thousand members, but the party failed to exceed the 5% vote entry barrier in the multi-mandate district, failing to enter Seimas. Furthermore its leaders also experienced fiasco in the single-mandate districts.
After an unsuccessful electoral campaign, Valentinas Mazuronis abandoned the post of party chairman, while Živilė Pinskuvienė was elected the new Labour Party chairwoman. However a number of DP leaders decided they were unwilling to follow her and left the party.
“The new party chairwoman presented her view of the party’s prospects, activities and such. I believe that our biorhythms do not match <…> My road does not match with Ž. Pinskuvienė,” V. Mazuronis told BNS. Soon after Vytautas Gapšys, who led the party temporarily, also announced his withdrawal.
Meanwhile the Order and Justice Party, which was predicted by some analysts to fail to enter Seimas, managed to exceed the 5% barrier and earned 8 mandates. Despite the party being satisfied with the election results, its leader Rolandas Paksas departed. Party leadership was passed down to Remigijus Žemaitaitis.
What awaits these two political powers in the Lithuanian political arena?
Labour to become a “zombie” party?
Public relations specialist A. Katauskas told LRT.lt that one thing is clear for these two parties – they no longer attract the public’s attention.
“The true leaders of these parties have withdrawn and the new leaders, despite being known, can hardly match their predecessors. We can hardly see the parties in the public sphere. They are all experiencing a time where they have neither methods, nor means to obtain any public attention,” A. Katauskas summarised.
This whole situation, he notes, does not suggest that either of the parties will manage to earn favour or raise their ratings because this requires strong politicians and strong communications.
“These parties already had their opportunities and now voters have pinned all their hopes to the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (LVŽS). Can a strong new leader appear in DP, can the TT leader R. Žemaitaitis successfully communicate and earn rating points any time soon? So far I doubt it. All of the initiative has been taken by other parliamentary parties – the Liberals, the Conservatives and the Social Democrats,” Katauskas explained.
Institute of International Relations and Political Science (TSPMI) political scientist M. Jastramskis believes that the election of Ž. Pinskuvienė as Labour chairwoman was a major mistake.
“She is at the bottom of the ratings based on her ratio of positive and negative evaluations. Perhaps some in Širvintos or nearby regions view her positively, but in Lithuania overall the views are very negative. A stronger person, a leader could raise up the crisis struck party, but it appears that this structure is diminishing out of inertia and it is now hard to speak of the DP’s future,” M. Jastramskis commented.
According to the TSPMI political scientist, parties which fail to enter parliament have several possible plans of action.
Firstly – to join someone. “Logically speaking, DP would be best off joining with someone, if anyone would want to join with them. The second scenario could be a successful return, however given the current situation for Labour, it would be difficult. I believe that the DP is left with the option of being a “zombie” party for a few years, with a significant decrease in membership, but maintaining its life and having some representation in municipalities,” M. Jastramskis said.
Public relations expert A. Katauskas doubts whether a DP merger with another political power could lead to any gains. “I cannot recall a case where a merger would go successfully or bring benefits. It was probably only beneficial during the merger of the Lithuanian Democratic Labour Party (LDDP) and Lithuanian Social Democrat Party (LSDP),” A. Katauskas recalls.
TT in stronger positions?
TT, unlike DP, could take up a specific value position, M. Jastramskis notes. According to him they could try aiming for the radical right.
“Of course it would be somewhat difficult because the LVŽS and Conservatives have some of it. But they could take up the Eurosceptic niche. The question of leadership is also important because R. Žemaitaitis is not the right figure (which could pull the party along). Data shows that many people do not even know R. Žemaitaitis. On the other hand Lithuanian voters are very unstable in their voting and it is difficult to establish a new party, thus we should not dismiss the opportunity for someone to make use of the TT or DP structures. A newer or more popular politician can come to the parties or they may merge,” M. Jastramskis mused.
Comparing R. Žemaitaitis and Ž. Pinskuvienė, M. Jastramskis notes that the head of the TT has more potential. “I believe that R. Žemaitaitis has more room to create and change the party’s image at the national level. Ž. Pinskuvienė has fewer such opportunities after what has been spoken and written about her in the news media on her governance in Širvintose,” the political scientist told LRT.lt.
Meanwhile public relations expert A. Katauskas notes that it may be difficult to shift to Euroscepticism and benefit from it for Order and Justice because most Lithuanians are positively inclined toward the European Union.
“Bar unexpected changes. But let us be honest, considering everything, this party has no charismatic individuals who could enhance the party’s visibility. They need to find ways to enter the news media and social networks. Only this way can they reach voters. TV and radio broadcasts are currently usurped and these two parties can find no place there.
TT even has its own fraction in Seimas and have an opportunity to appear in the public sphere. The elections are over, new elections are nearing – presidential and municipal elections are nearing and they will also be important. Both parties have strong structures. For now TT has stronger positions. DP has reached the bottom and they need aggressive and strong moves to at least regain some of their former positions,” Katauskas commented.