Who’ll win the Seimas elections?

DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

That may very well be the case, but there are reasons for doubt. Lithuania’s political situation is extremely unclear. The current grouping of political parties is unstable and unpredictable. What is clear is that the coalition will not manage without less than three parties, even if parties both on the left and right join in.

The current ruling coalition will not win the election. The Social Democrats will most likely be the most popular party, but in this election, as in earlier ones, it will receive less votes than the polls predict. The party has an advantage in that it has a secure electorate. Its ministers are quite competent and the party manages to win accolades for its accomplishments in the government. The party is solid and internal squabbles stay internal, which is not the case with the conservatives.

The Social Democrats are popular in Lithuania’s provinces, and they actively seek to attract appealing people like athlete Virgilijus Alekna, composer Faustas Latėnas, Rasa Budbergytė and, of course, Saulius Skvernelis, to strengthen their profile in cities. So far, they have managed to avoid scandals, evident in the determined decisions to force minsters Birutė Vėsaitė and Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė to resign.

The party has, however, faltered by deciding to unconditionally defend Druskininkai mayor Ričardas Malinauskas, who was mired in accusations of corruption. If Malinauskas is acquitted, it will be obvious that not all is well in Druskininkai and that the Social Democrats are turning a blind eye to it. The party will also be harmed because many will hold it responsible for all of the government’s scandals, even those involving Labour and Order ministers. Furthermore the Peasant Green party is seriously challenging them in Lithuania’s provinces, and the Social Democrats will not win the 22 single-member constituencies that they received in the 2012 elections.

The forecast for the coalition’s partners is much darker. Though the Order and Justice party will try to play the anti-immigrant card to gather nationalistically-inclined voters, there is still the possibility that it will not clear the 5 percent barrier. Some members, like Petras Gražulis and Remigijus Žemaitis, may win single-member mandates, but the party’s sunset will not be averted.

The Labour party’s forecast is somewhat better. Viktor Uspaskich was always the party’s star and most attractive candidate. Without him, the party will fail to collect 10 percent of the votes, and its gray politicians will not shine in their single-mandate constituencies.

On the other hand, when the trial for fraudulent accounting and Viktor Uspaskich withdrew from politics, the Labour Party rid itself of its pariah status and became almost “normal”. The new party chairman, Valentinas Mazuronis, is often seen at the President’s Office, which shows that the president is no longer unconditionally hostile to the party. Conservative chairman Gabrielius Landsbergis said that “certain contacts are possible” with the Labour Party and that he can work openly with Mazuronis in the European Parliament. Uspakich recently stated that the conservatives are more sincere than the social democrats and that working with them would be more worthwhile. Therefore, the Labour Party could be invited into the right-governed coalition if their votes are needed to make a majority.

The situation of the leftist parties is also vague. Prospects are looking up for the liberals and serious failure is threatening the conservatives. For the time being, the new chairman, Gabrielius Landsbergis has not lived up to expectations. He continues to work in Brussels and not in Vilnius, rarely talks about current issues, and is difficult for correspondents to reach. His decision to raise a number of young conservative activists in single-member constituencies has angered veterans who have lost their old and safe constituencies.

The conservatives usually get more votes than forecasted and campaign successfully in single-member constituencies, especially in Kaunas and Vilnius. In 2012, they won 15 out of 18 members in these cities. This year, they’d be lucky to win half of that. They will not have 33 seats in the new Seimas.

The liberals’ index is rising. In the polls, they take a firm second place. The party is not resting on its laurels, seeking to create the image that it is the most rational of all of the parties and that sober-minded people must vote for it. Talk that the party is destined to succeed will attract even more supporters. The party is trying to use all of its leverage to increase its popularity in Vilnius and is working hard in the provinces, where it hasn’t had any support until now. The party will improve its position, but it is unknown to what extent. In the past three Seimas elections, it only won in three single-member constituencies. Quite a few rather unappealing party members work in the municipalities and European Parliament, and the party’s spare bench is short and uninspiring.

Neither the current coalition nor the current opposition will elect enough members to constitute a government. They’d be lucky to win 55. It will be the smaller parties and populists who support the principle of forming a coalition.

The Peasants and Greens are rising in popularity – mostly because of the popularity of party leader Ramunas Karbauskis, who gets support from his consistent fight against alcoholism in rural areas. The party could win 10 to 15 members, so its support will get it into a possible coalition. Even the conservatives hope that they will be possible to attract Karbauskis’ party, though this may be unrealistic, given that Karbauskis decided to campaign against Rasa Juknevičienė in Panevėžys.

The Electoral Action of Poles has crossed the five percent barrier and will win in three or four single-member constituencies. Their member count could increase if they join up with the Russians. The Poles have shown that they are unreliable partners and not ripe for governance. Nobody will rush to discuss working with them, but no one will balk at making a deal if their votes are needed for a coalition.

New political forces – the National Resurrection Party, the Labour Party and the Way of Courage – made strong showings in the last three Seimas elections and have defeated many traditional parties. During the municipal elections, an unexpectedly large number of voters gave their votes back to social movements and independent candidates. The antipathy of five fifths of the voters regarding traditional parties is still resilient. For the time being, it’s not clear what form these protest votes will take.

Naglis Puteikis is forming the “Non-Taxable Income Party,” and the “List of Lithuania” has not decided whether or not it will take part in the election campaign.

There is no longer a thick line of division; practically all of the parties are determined to negotiate with all of the others. So various coalitions are possible.

There can be the Social Democrats, Liberals and Peasant Greens; but there can also be the Liberals, Conservatives, the Labour Party and the Peasant Greens. With things as they are, neither group will bother asking the Poles in.

In circumstances like these the role of the president can be very significant. There are ten months to go to the elections, so the current clouds may yet disperse, but the elections will probably remain difficult to foresee.

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