Center-right wins Lithuanian parliamentary election

  • 2008-10-15
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

NUMBER ONE: Dalia Grybauskaite, member of the European Commission, seen as an ideal candidate for the post of Prime Minister of Lithuania, came out on top in the first round of parliament elections.

VILNIUS - After the Oct. 12 parliamentary election, the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats, known as the Conservatives, came out on top in the first round of elections to the 141-member Seimas, the Lithuanian parliament. The newly-formed National Resurrection Party, led by Arunas Valinskas, host of TV humor and song shows, took second place.

The election results may mean the end of years of Social Democrat Party-led center-left rule by Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, though he still claims ambitions to form a center-left coalition again. His party's two minor current center-left coalition partners, the Social Liberals and the Peasants' Union, received less than 5 percent of the vote, which is the threshold for getting into Parliament under the party lists. The fourth partner of the current coalition, the center-right Liberal and Center Union, got 5.3 percent of the vote.

Both previously quite successful populist parties, the Order and Justice Party and the Labor Party showed poorer results in comparison to a pre-election public opinion survey. The Order and Justice Party is led by Rolandas Paksas, who was the nation's president until his impeachment in 2004 for granting Lithuanian citizenship for his election campaign's financial sponsor, a Lithuanian-based Russian businessman, without necessary legal proceedings. The Labor Party, which won the most votes in the previous election, is led by a Russian-born millionaire Viktor Uspaskich.

Last Sunday's elections show a shift to the center-right among voters. Homeland Union won 18 seats in under voting for party lists, which decide 70 seats in Parliament. The National Resurrection Party won 13 seats, Order and Justice 11, the Social Democrats 10, the Labor Party eight, the Liberal Union five, and the Liberal and Center Union five.

According to the Lithuanian election system, another 71 MPs are elected in single-mandate constituencies. In those constituencies where no candidate gained more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off is to be held on Oct. 26. The two highest-voted candidates of the first round will compete in a two-candidate second round.
Only two Social Democrats and a leader of a Polish-speaking minority party managed to win in their single-mandate constituencies in the first round on Oct. 12. Half of the candidates who will compete in the second round are Conservatives (45 candidates) and Social Democrats (24 candidates), while the rest belong to smaller parties.

On Oct. 13, parties' leaders spoke at press conferences of forming coalitions. "The results in run-offs of Oct. 26 will be crucial for the negotiations on the new ruling coalition," Andrius Kubilius, leader of the winning Conservatives, said. He added that he is ready to talk about the coalition with all parties. Kubilius emphasized that the coalition should be based on the parties' common values.
The Conservatives are in favor of introducing new amendments to corporate profit taxes, especially not taxing profits which are reinvested in new technology. They also want to solve problems with budget revenues, which would mean abolishment of exemptions in VAT and all other taxes. The Conservatives are against the Social Democrat Party's plan to introduce a progressive tax, which would impose a larger burden on those who are richer.

Valinskas' party is seen by all analysts as holding the decisive hand in negotiations to form a new ruling coalition and a new government because this party can be a member of both the center-right coalition led by the Conservatives as well as the center-left coalition led by the Social Democrats. On Oct. 13, Valinskas said that his party has no intention of merging with the populists and leans to the center-right. "We will have no talks with the Order and Justice Party. We also are not very willing to be in coalition with the Labor Party. Kirkilas is not the best choice. The prime minister should be a manager, not a politician," Valinskas said. Earlier, he speculated that Dalia Grybauskaite, member of the European Commission responsible for financial programming and budget, would be a good choice for the post of prime minister.

"The most effective coalition for Lithuania would be a coalition of the Conservatives, the Liberal Union, the Liberal and Center Union, and Valinskas' party," Eligijus Masiulis, leader of the Liberal Union, said.
A referendum on extending the life of the Soviet-era Ignalina nuclear plant was also held on Oct. 12, despite the European Union's demands it should be closed by the end of 2009. However, the vote failed, as did not make the required turnout of 50 percent. Some 48 percent of Lithuanians took part in the parliamentary election and the referendum. Some 91 percent of those who voted in the referendum were in favor of prolonging Ignalina's lifetime, while nine percent were against it.