Local press digest

  • 2004-06-17
Toomas Hendrik Ilves won, Res Publica lost. This is how one could briefly sum up the results of the European Parliament elections, whose effect on domestic policy will apparently become clearer in autumn.
Although Ilves alone gathered more votes than the two runner-up party lists together, it is premature to put the equal sign between Ilves and the Social Democratic Party. One voted for Ilves as a foreign policy expert regardless of his party affiliation. Whether Ilves takes his success to the European Parliament, or whether some of his halo shines on the party, will depend on how skillfully the Social Democrats can take advantage of their great opportunity.
The largest threat hanging over the SocDems is in making wrong conclusions from the election results and in overtwisting the screw. Prior to the elections, people liked the more positive and mild Social Democrats anyway.
Equally incorrect as equating Ilves and the Social Democrats would be to explain Res Publica's defeat solely on account of its incorrectly chosen electoral magnets or incorrectly planned campaign. The change of image that came along with the campaign, the replacement of conservative slogans with the easy-going aura of a model has turned public opinion against Res Publica. But regardless of the election of personalities, the results of every candidate mirror the voter's assessment of Res Publica as a ruling party.
Still, the popularity decrease and the defeat at the elections do not mean a destruction of Res Publica. Like the great opportunity for the Social Democrats in Ilves' success, the problems of Res Publica conceal an opportunity for a change of course, learning from the mistakes and overcoming the low level of support.
Res Publica and the Social Democrats are just like the children's choir near the Emajogi River. It will be clear in the coming months whether Res Publica cracks in half like a straw or if the Social Democrats pump themselves full of air like a bladder.
June 15, 2004

The president's office - consolation?
It is possible to see more similarities [with the presidential campaigns] than differences. This is the third election in which disaffected politicians have vied for the presidential post.
If the conservatives had not expelled Arturas Paulauskas from the office of the assistant general prosecutor, he most likely today would be working peacefully at the prosecutor's office and would not have become Valdas Adamkus' main competitor in the 1997-98 elections. He wouldn't have formed the New Union party.
Similarly, at first Rolandas Paksas didn't gain the offices of prime minister and leader of the Liberal Union, and only later did he create his own party and even became-although only for a short time-president.
In these elections, the person aiming for the presidency was Petras Austrevicius, who until now had displayed no political ambitions, only pursuing a diplomatic career. But Lithuania's place in the European Commission was given not to him but to Dalia Grybauskaite. What's more, Austrevicius even lost his office of leadership and got only a second-rate assistant chancellor position in the government. What's left for the man to do? Only attempt to jump directly into the president's chair.
In other words, election campaigns in Lithuania are still illusionist games.
Presidential candidates promise to increase pensions and salaries. Future MEPs, who will have to serve the interests of all of Europe, say that they will shock Brussels and have even begun to gibber about some kind of customs duty with Poland, seemingly forgetting that this country is a EU member.
Valdas Bartasevicius
June 14, 2004

A clear "no" for the government
The voters have expressed their distrust in Emsis' government, which is working together with the parties in the For Human Rights in a United Latvia list. The governing coalition received only one of Latvia's nine seats in the European Parliament, but the majority of the Parliament's representatives (FHUL and PP) together received only two. The voters' evaluation is clear. The forming of the government with the support of pro-Moscow parties, a violation of pre-election promises and a betrayal of their own inviolable principals, left voters with only ethnicity as the clear criterion for valuing a party.
The results of the vote were a warning that a dangerously large step has been taken toward fulfilling Russia's goals - Latvia as a two-community state, as an "agent" under the control of Russia in the European Union and NATO. It is sad that more than half of the seats went to politicians who for many years were either very openly opposed or destructive in their approach to Latvia's integration into Europe. Zdanoka is going to the Europarliament as a member of the enemies' camp, and FF/LNNK's four deputies will be included in an un-influential marginal faction. Thus five of nine MEPs will be lost to Latvia. The responsibility completely belongs to the current government, the politics of whose founders and leaders are dangerous to Latvia's security and successful development.
June 14, 2004