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Right, Center parties win EP elections

  • 2009-06-10
  • By TBT Staff

BALLOT CAST: Latvian President Valdis Zatlers casts his vote in the June 6 elections, in which Latvians chose both their European parliament representatives and local leaders. The two elections coinciding is thought to have helped boost turnout.

TALLINN - Centrist and right leaning parties have topped the lists at the European Parliament elections, which took place on June 6 and 7.
According to preliminary results released on June 7, the Estonian Center Party came out on top in the country with a total of 26.1 percent of the popular vote.
The party took two of the country's six seats 's increasing their mandate by one over the previous electoral cycle 's after an aggressive campaign that included sending thousands of text messages to voters in support of party chairman and current Tallinn City Mayor Edgar Savisaar. The party's other mandate will go to incumbent MEP Siiri Oviir.

The centrist, social liberal party is a member of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party 's a liberal confederation of national parties on the European level.
The Estonian Center Party was closely followed by Indrek Tarand, an independent candidate who took 25.8 percent of the vote, easily securing a seat in the EP. Tarand is the director of the Estonian war museum and a freelance journalist. He has previously worked as an adviser to former Prime Minister Mart Laar, a member of the Pro Patria/Res Publica Union (IRL).
The Estonian Reform Party and IRL each won one seat in the elections, with popular vote shares of 15.3 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively. Kristiina Ojuland will represent the Reform Party, while Tunne-Valdo Kelam will remain in his MEP position for IRL.

The Social Democratic Party was sorely defeated in the elections, taking home only one mandate 's down from three in the previous election cycle. Former Finance Minister Ivari Padar, who was recently forced to step down following the collapse of the ruling coalition, will represent the party in the EP.

In Latvia, the newly formed center-right Civic Union won the election with 24.3 percent of the popular vote, securing two mandates in the EP. Civic Union is a new party that is largely made up of defectors from the nationalist For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK) Union and the ruling, center right New Era. Sandra Kalniete, a former Commissioner for Latvia, and Inese Vaidere, a sitting MEP, will represent the party.

The left leaning Harmony Center, a party largely composed of members of the Russian-speaking community, took second place in the election, securing 19.5 percent of the vote and winning two seats. Controversially, the party will send Alfreds Rubiks 's a former leader of the Communist Party in Latvia and well known for maintaining his pro-Moscow stance even after the declaration of independence 's to the EP at the top of their ticket.

PCTVL, another pro-Russian party, came in third with 9.66 percent of the vote, winning one mandate. Latvia's First Party/Latvia's Way, TB/LNNK, and the ruling New Era each won one mandate, with vote shares of 7.5 percent, 7.45 percent and 6.66 percent, respectively.
In Lithuania, meanwhile, the Homeland Union, the leading conservative party, came out on top of the election with 26.82 percent of the vote and four mandates. Vytautas Landsbergis and Laima Andrikiene are staying in their MEP positions, to be joined by Algirdas Saudargas, a former minister of foreign affairs, and Radvile Morkunaite, an advisor of the present minister of foreign affairs.
Lithuanian Social Democratic Party received 18.62 percent of the vote and three seats. The Order and Justice Party, led by former President Rolandas Paksas, received 12.23 percent of the votes and will send two representatives 's including Juozas Imbrasas, the former mayor of Vilnius who was recently forced out of office.

The Labor Party took 8.8 percent of the vote and has announced its intention to send party leader Viktor Uspaskich 's this despite the court recently upholding a ban on his leaving the country over a high-profile corruption scandal.
The Lithuanian Poles Electoral Action and the Liberal Movement each received one mandate, with 8.45 percent and 7.35 percent of the vote, respectively.

TURNOUT
Perhaps the most striking thing about this cycle's elections has been the turnout figures.
Lithuania has seen a record low voter turnout at just 20.92 percent 's 563,276 voters out of a total electorate of 2,692,790. Only Slovakia, which has a long history of low voter turnout, posted more dismal figures.
Commentators and think-tanks have noted that the low voter turnout rate is likely a result of voter fatigue, as the country is coming off a recent presidential election.
President Valdas Adamkus said he is disappointed by the apathy of voters. "The results show that the voters do not [see] this matter as topical" said Adamkus.
"I think that parties have put forward the best candidates that they had, and we shall see what we have" said Adamkus.

The head of the Central Electoral Committee Zenonas Vaigauskas has implied that the apathy might be explained by heavy rain on the day of elections.
Adamkus said he is convinced that the 20 percent of voters were actually party members, who had to go and vote in accordance with orders, disregarding the weather conditions. Only a few remaining percent were probably genuine voters, who voted according to their civil duty, the President said.
Latvia, by contrast, saw the highest voter turnout rate in Eastern Europe at just over 53 percent.
The country's high turnout rate is largely attributed to the local elections that took place on the same day 's particularly the race for the important and highly controversial position of Riga city mayor.

Interestingly, Estonia was able to boost election turnout by implementing its first ever EP e-voting scheme. The e-voting scheme was hailed as a success, with more than 58,669 voters utilizing the system. Many countries are now hailing the system as a possible solution to low voter turnout.
The total turnout in Estonia was 43.9 percent 's one of the highest figures in Eastern Europe.