Going left?

  • 2000-09-07
Whichever side wins, the fundamental Lithuanian foreign policies will remain the country's full membership in NATO and the European Union after parliamentary elections on Oct. 8. Domestic policy will not change either. This has been proven by experience - Lithuania has already had both right- and left-wing governments.

There could be some minor changes in style but not in essence. Lithuania is no different in this respect from the United Kingdom. But Lithuania is more stable politically because it has no Northern Ireland problem.

On Sept. 2 former British Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher congratulated a congress of the ruling Lithuanian Conservative Party, led by Vytautas Landsbergis. On the same day current British Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair sent a letter of greeting to the Lithuanian Social Democratic coalition led by Algirdas Brazauskas. It is rather symbolic - the Conservatives are greeted by a politician who belongs to the past, while the world's modern political star wishes success on the Social Democrats. Surveys show the Conservatives losing this election because the electorate are unsatisfied with the speed of economic progress.

It seems that the Social Democratic coalition would win elections if a ballot were held today. In that event, Lithuania would be no different from a majority of EU countries, where Leftists (Socialists, Social Democrats or Labor) rule everywhere except in Spain and Ireland.

The New Union (Social Liberals) of Arturas Paulauskas is leading in opinion surveys. He launched a kind of American-style election campaign with some dose of populist sentiment reminiscent of "Read my lips" by George Bush. Paulauskas is especially popular among women voters because of his Hollywood movie star looks.

Nonetheless, only half of the seats in the Lithuanian Parliament is elected from party lists, while the other half is elected individually in constituencies. Social Democrats have more experienced politicians for the individual battle of personalities in the constituencies. In any event, Brazauskas and Paulauskas are capable of forming a coalition after elections, both of them being pragmatic politicians.

Another possible scenario after elections is the creation of a liberal coalition created from the ranks of the Social Liberals, the Liberal Union, the Center Union, and the Modern Christian Democratic Union. It might be wise for Lithuania to travel this centrist path to put an end to the unending rivalry between the Left and the Right.