VILNIUS - Controversial former Labor Party leader Viktor Uspaskich failed to regain political power on Oct. 21 after losing the second round of parliamentary by-elections for the Alytus district to Conservative Party candidate Kestutis Cilinskas.
The final results released by the Central Electoral Committee show that Cilinskas garnered 55.33 percent of the vote compared to Uspaskich's 42.73 percent.
Uspaskich, who is suspected of conducting fraudulent bookkeeping while heading the Labor Party in 2006, had been hiding in Russia for about 18 months before returning to Lithuania in late September to run for the parliamentary seat. Though he was immediately arrested upon his arrival in Lithuania, a win in the election could have secured his immunity from prosecution.
Labor Party leader Kestutis Daugys said the fact that Uspaskich was under house arrest in Kedainiai made the campaign difficult.
"If he had the possibility to speak to people before they went to vote, he would be in first place," said Daugys.
On election day, some Alytus residents told The Baltic Times they worried Uspaskich's wealth and power could influence voters, while others said they didn't care to cast any ballot.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Uspaskich won. Pensioners in the villages would vote for Uspaskich because he promises money, and the youth aren't active at all [in voting]. But I plan to go vote," said resident Dalia Lynikiene.
"My vote alone won't bring any good for this town. The politicians won't try to make any good for the town, and I don't care if Uspaskich wins or loses," said Saulius Grendelis, another resident.
After the vote representatives of the Conservative Party hailed the result as a triumph of honesty over big-money politics and corruption.
"Definitely, it is very pleasant because this person was elected, because a bad person didn't win and, finally, because the elections were not won by money," honorary leader of the Conservatives and Euro parliamentarian Vytautas Landsbergis, told BNS.
Andrius Kubilius, chairman of the Conservative Party and vice-speaker of the Parliament, told The Baltic Times the election campaign was a competition between two political approaches, one of corruption and the other in favor of justice.
"It's very good for Cilinskas to win because he's a very strong professional lawyer and defender of human rights. We'd also like to see this as a more general sign to the Parliament that many people are dissatisfied with the ruling coalition today. In the second round, voters were able to choose between two parties of opposition," said Kubilius.
"It means that citizens of Lithuania are starting to see a very clear difference, that it's not so easy to manipulate them like several years before."
Daugys said he's not sure if Uspaskich will run for parliamentary elections next year or continue in politics at all. Uspaskich did not reply to an e-mail sent by The Baltic Times.
In the first round of elections, held Oct. 7, Cilinskas received 30.29 percent of the votes in the Dzukija constituency while Uspaskich was supported by 20.26 percent. A low-voter turnout forced a second election round when neither of the candidates gained the 40 percent of votes required by law for an outright win.
Professor Algirdas Lukosaitis of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science told The Baltic Times that Cilinskas' win may have been a sign of protest.
"I think in Lithuania we have a lot of cases in which we investigate the history of corruption and we have no final results. I'd like to [ask] the serious question: Will this be a clear result in the history of corruption in the financing of the Labor Party and [its former] leader Viktor Uspaskich and his activity?" said Lukocaitis.
Alytus County is known to be a pro-Conservative area. In 2004, Conservative leader Algirdis Vrubliauskas won a seat in Parliament, and this spring gave up his position as MP to become mayor of the Alytus district.