Hence, this morning there is more celebration among politicians than after the Seimas or presidential elections. There is equal amounts of sadness as well of course.
How were these elections special? First of all, in that voter turnout was greater than four years ago.
Of course, the difference compared to 2015 is miniscule. However, 47.8% is still more than 47.18%. The 0.62% increase in voters doubtlessly means that there is also more belief in Lithuania and its future, so to say. Perhaps not as much as we would like, however more is always better than less.
Third – there were fewer electoral breaches. In other terms, Lithuania has become more European. This means that it has become harder to buy and demean a person, while the number of buyers also declined.
This is excellent. Nevertheless, it is not this that is most important for Lithuania, especially when looking from the peaks of the Seimas majority’s constant efforts for the past two years to limit democracy and narrow freedom of press and expression. In this regard, the results of yesterday’s elections are especially important for the continued development of democracy in the country.
Hence, what must be highlighted after this sleepless night for politicians?
First of all, it is that the political situation in the country has become much clearer. There is far less room for ambiguity and the majority’s demagoguery. There is less room for political speculation or misdirection, which was actively done by both Ramūnas Karbauskis and Saulius Skvernelis as of late.
Thus, the key result of the mayor and municipal council elections is that compared to the Seimas elections, Karbauskis’ “Farmers” were met with a tangible loss.
Karbauskis repeatedly made arrogant claims up to the municipal elections that his party will win all three elections to be held this year.
Hence, one can claim that Karbauskis once again ended up lying. Just this time, even his supporters will notice it. It became clear yesterday that the “Farmers” will not win all the elections this year, perhaps not winning any of them.
Why can it be said that yesterday Karbauskis and Skvernelis met with a tangible, even if not painful, loss?
Election statistics show that the absolute number of voters were not hooked by the “Farmer” demagoguery. Only 11% of voters backed the “Farmer” party and its candidates. This is an entire 8% fewer than the party received during the Seimas elections, when it received 19% of the vote.
And the number of “Farmer” mayor candidates, who won immediately or at least entered the second round is at least two times smaller than the “Farmers” won Seimas election single mandate districts. Based on these two parameters, the “Farmers” lost clearly yesterday to not only the Conservatives, but also the Social Democratic Party.
And this is the most important result of these elections, whatever Karbauskis, Skvernelis and their entourages may say now, making comparisons to the 2015 elections. Karbauskis’ hot air balloon that’s been arrogantly inflated for two years has been punctured, so to say.
What conclusions emerge from yesterday’s elections?
It became clear yesterday that the large cities spat the “Farmers” out and did it with the same apathy as one spits out chewing gum – without emotion. In his bid for the office of Vilnius mayor, Minister of Economy Virginijus Sinkevičius did not gather even 5% of the vote.
During their bids for mayor offices, both the Minister of economy and other heroes of the Seimas elections such as Bronius Markauskas, Kęstutis Mažeika or Valerijus Simulikas were smashed by locals akin to political punching bags.
The “Farmers'” only hope in the large cities remains in Klaipėda. However, even Klaipėda port director general Vaitkus, who turned into a “Farmer” all of a sudden, has poor chances in the second round and even that is understating. And even if Vaitkus does manage to somehow beat Vytautas Grubliauskas, from whom he trails more than 8%, the head of the port, with his company of dambrauskases and udovickis is just as much a “Farmer” as a crocodile is a herbivore.
In other terms, after yesterday’s elections Karbauskis and Skvernelis were left standing at the same gates as they stood well before the Seimas elections.
It is also notable how in many agricultural regions, the Farmer and Greens Union received only ten percent or fewer votes. The losses in Anykščiai and Šakiai should be particularly painful for the “Farmers”.
Furthermore, the Gediminas Kirkilas and friends party were met with total failure, having become a useless castoff of the Social Democrats in the name of power.
Not a single mayor, not a single second round and only 1.67% of the vote, which Kirkilas’ Social Democrat Labour earned – this is the price of banding together with Karbauskis-Skvernelis’ clique. Meanwhile, the Social Democratic Party essentially maintained its positions and will surpass the “Farmers” in both number of mayors and municipal councilmen.
On the other hand, the Social Democrats have little to celebrate as well. Party leader Gintautas Paluckas is a clear bottleneck for the LSDP. The party leader’s bid for Vilnius mayor’s office received equally few votes as any other marginal figure in politics.
Looking at the long-term political perspective, this fact bodes ill for the party. Especially when the Social Democratic Party rolls met with total fiascos in Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda.
The Liberal Movement has little reason to be happy as well, even if superficially looking, the party remains in the highest leagues of politics despite the Masiulis story. To the surprise of many, the Liberals retained mayor posts in the province, even making gains in Joniškis and only being behind the “Farmers” in terms of entry to the second round.
However, it is clear just what a fateful mistake Liberal leader Eugenijus Gentvilas may have made to clash with the Vilnius and Klaipėda mayors and push them away prior to the elections.
Both former Liberal mayors will likely retain their posts, their electoral committee rolls took first place. Meanwhile, Liberal Movement candidate to Vilnius mayor, Martynas Nagevičius and the party itself performed more than comically in Vilnius. 0.39% for Nagevičius is an absolute political anti-record for the liberal party.
The Liberal Movement without the big cities is a liberal party without a future.
The same can also be said of the Conservatives. It is clear that the Conservatives have long not had and it appears are unable to find leaders, who could bring the people of Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai and Panevėžys to their side.
However, regardless of this, the Conservatives confirmed that they are leading among the parties, who got blown away by electoral committees – an entire 27% of voters voted for voted for committee electoral rolls. Meanwhile, the Homeland Union won what it had to win.
However, looking at the horizon of the nearing Seimas election, this should be little consolation for either party leaders or supporters. If this continues and it looks like it will, the Conservatives’ chances to take charge of the state look more than miserable.
How should we view that Lithuania is going to the committees, with some 90 electoral committees running in the municipal elections?
There is no basis to outright state that committees bring only evil, when talking about municipal rule, even if it is clear that committees, like single day political butterflies, completely wash out political accountability. However, one must admit that in many places, committees reactivated comatose local politics, drew in new political powers and most importantly made people take interest in politics, which is good.
What would be bad is if the committee bug jumped into the Seimas elections. What is truly bad is the fact that everyone – both parties and committees massively lack clear modern leaders. Most mayoral election second rounds, including even Vilnius, can be described as déjà vu. We’ve seen this.
However shallow national politics is though, yesterday’s elections give hope that the worst presidential election scenario may not hit Lithuania this time.