WINNING VOTE: Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, casting her vote at the ballot box during the European Parliament elections on May 25. As expected, in a parallel vote in Lithuania’s presidential elections she won a second term, defeating challenger Social Democrat Zigmantas Balcytis. At a press conference on election night, Grybauskaite thanked the voters and said it was a victory for everyone. “My slogan was that I believe in all of you, especially in every honest person of Lithuania. Therefore, I thank all those who showed support and voted.” (Read story on page 4)
TALLINN - European Parliamentary elections that ended on May 25 brought some surprising results, specifically in some startling shifts in voting against the typically strong center-left and center-right parties. With impressive results from more extreme parties, the message to Brussels is that citizens are becoming increasingly dissatisfied about the direction the European Union is moving, and with an apparent weakening of democratic ideals and participation within the community.
The elections in the Baltics held some minor surprises themselves.
In Estonia, the Reform Party came out on top, as expected, securing two out of the six Euro Parliament seats up for grabs. It was former Prime Minister Andrus Ansip that led the party to victory, reports Public Broadcasting.
The Reform Party also turned in a strong performance in e-voting, collecting 32 percent of votes cast via the Internet.
Analyst Rain Kooli took a darker view of the results in a piece for uudised.err.ee, saying that the worst part was the eight-point drop in turnout compared to the 2009 European election (36 percent this year compared to 44 percent then).
“Those who should be responsible for bringing the EU closer to Estonians and making it understandable have not quite succeeded,” he wrote, saying the media is partly to blame.
Ansip, after the win, said “The main issue in the elections was security. The Estonian people are worried about the security of the Estonian state. It is extremely important that all of these six representatives of Estonia in the European Parliament understand the security of Estonia alike.”
Looking to Brussels, at last week’s Cabinet meeting, members approved Prime Minister Taavi Roivas’ plan to nominate Ansip as a candidate for European commissioner. Ansip has said that his focus will be on working with financial, energy and regional affairs - the fields where Estonia gets most of its EU funding - if he is selected for the post.
If Ansip does become commissioner in November, either Foreign Minister Urmas Paet or MP Igor Grazin would take his place.
Only 36.4 percent of Estonian voters participated in the elections. In the overall tally, the Reform Party collected 24.3 percent of all votes, the Center Party collected 22.4 percent, IRL 13.9 percent, Social Democratic Party 13.6 percent and independent candidate Indrek Tarand 13.2 percent of votes. Altogether 103,151 people voted via the Internet.
Ruling coalition faces shake-up
In assessing the results of the European Parliament elections in Lithuania, Chair of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said that voters have succumbed to populism.
These sentiments reflect what many consider to have been a weak campaign for the LSDP, as it received only two seats. Butkevicius said that he was surprised by the results. “It can be seen that [voters] who participate in the EP election sometimes choose certain populist parties. Being of a pragmatic nature, I am slightly surprised [about our results],” said the head of the Cabinet.
The prime minister confessed he thought that the LSDP would win four seats. He couldn’t offer explanations for the less than stellar performance.
Speaking of possible changes in the Cabinet, the prime minister said he does not plan any. “It will depend on the coalition partners. I have told them that they should assess their ministers. I believe that they have acquired considerable experience during the Presidency of the EU Council,” he added.
Others believe that the election results call for changes. This includes leader of the opposition Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats Andrius Kubilius, who says the unexpected results should lead to discussion on a new ruling coalition, reported The Lithuania Tribune.
Chair of the Liberals’ Movement Eligijus Masiulis says the EP election is a signal, and does not rule out that his party could participate in the formation of a new ruling coalition.
“Without a doubt this election is perhaps a certain signal to the current political parties of the ruling coalition, and we believe that the answer is for the Social Democrats to make a decision. They and their leader Algirdas Butkevicius have to decide if they are satisfied with the current ruling coalition, with those endless misunderstandings among the coalition partners, with this endless case of the Labor Party, the statements of the leader of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, casting dirt at Lithuania,” said Masiulis.
“The EP elections have shown surprising results: the ruling Social Democratic Party was left behind conservative party, and the liberals won third place,” said political scientist Tomas Janeliunas. “This shows that the right[-leaning] parties in Lithuania are gaining more support than expected,” he added. “And this may create a big challenge for the ruling coalition in the next parliamentary elections in 2016,” he predicted.
Labor Party founder Viktor Uspaskich believes that the ruling coalition will remain strong. “I am almost sure that the coalition will remain strong, even stronger after the slight setback by the Social Democrats. They’ve tasted enough of minority government support and won’t do the same for the second time,” Uspaskich said at a press conference on May 26.
According to the VRK, the Liberals’ Movement received 16.5 percent of votes. The party won two seats in the EP. The Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats won the most votes with 17.3 percent; 17.2 percent of votes went to the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party; with each party gaining two seats. The Liberals Movement and the Order and Justice Party also won two seats each.
Unity consolidates power
The eight new Latvian politicians in the European Parliament are solid enough to pursue the country’s interests there, said President Andris Berzins in an interview on LNT television on May 26. He said energy and the further development of the European Union are the main matters for Latvia and the EU right now.
Unity won four seats in the new EP. VL-TB/LNNK, Harmony, Union of Greens and Farmers, and the Russians’ Union of Latvia will each have one seat in the EP. Only 30 percent of eligible voters participated in the EP elections in Latvia.
The results of the election clearly show that Latvian society demands and supports stable and unifying government policy, including long-term national development and political party ability to combine forces to reach this goal, said Unity’s Chairwoman Solvita Aboltina regarding the victory.
Aboltina believes the results demonstrate that successful effort requires joining forces, thus motivating and uniting society, confirmed Unity press secretary Laila Timrota.
“This, especially in the light of the complicated geopolitical situation, is our joint task and duty in the name of the future and prosperity of the nation and the people,” emphasized Aboltina.
Political parties must overcome mutual squabbles and fragmentation in the name of cooperation and development of broad political platforms. “This is an important lesson that any statesmanlike political party and individual politicians must bear in mind in planning their political activity,” affirmed the party chairwoman.
Every vote is important in the EP and Saeima elections alike, noted Aboltina. “The political fragmentation of the minor parties has no future. It causes disappointment in society over wasted opportunities,” she said, adding that politicians who truly wish to work for the good of the nation and represent their voters must consider involvement and cooperation opportunities, a move which is absolutely possible and in the interest of society and the nation.
Unity representatives in the EP will include ex-Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, the most popular politician in the Latvian election. However, he stands a good chance of being nominated for a European Commission office.
In such case that Dombrovskis becomes a European commissioner, he will be replaced by Inese Vaidere in the European Parliament.
Unity collected 46.1 percent of the vote; All for Latvia-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (VL-TB/LNNK) took 14.2 percent; Harmony 13.0 percent; Greens/Farmers 8.23percent, and Russians’ Union of Latvia 6.3 percent.