Lithuanians finished with Conservatives

  • 2000-10-12
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - The center-right Liberal Union of Rolandas Paksas and the center-left New Union (Scial Liberals) of Arturas Paulauskas announced their victory in the Lithuanian parliamentary election on Oct. 8 and in two days agreed to lead the country's government.

Paksas, the former mayor of Vilnius, will be the country's prime minister, while Paulauskas will be the chairman of Parliament.

"The country's president supports this initiative," said Violeta Gaizauskaite, presidential spokesperson. The president names the new prime minister, according to the Lithuanian constitution.

Both leaders say the coalition government is faithful to the pre-election agreement between the New Union, the Liberal Union, the Center Union and the Modern Christian Democratic Union about forming a coalition government after elections.

This liberal coalition is known as the New Policy bloc and was supported by President Valdas Adamkus during the election. Paksas said that the political party of Polish-speakers, the Polish Electoral Action, Kazys Bobelis, leader of the Christian Democratic Union, and a couple of independent MPs are invited to join the coalition, which will make it possible for this liberal bloc to have an absolute majority in Parliament. The Peasants Party said it will support the liberal coalition.

The Oct. 8 elections were a shock for the ruling Conservative Party of Vytautas Landsbergis, which was turned into a marginal political party overnight with just nine seats.

On the eve of the election, Landsbergis, the most unpopular politician of the last two years, appeared on several TV channels and asked viewers for "forgiveness for some features of his personal character." He said that he was sometimes arrogant with his political rivals. However, voters did not apparently buy the last-minute apology.

"People think that our reforms are too speedy," said Jurgis Razma, one of the Conservative Party leaders.

He would not comment on the success of the Liberal Union, which is for even more radical economic reforms to minimize the influence of the state on the economy.

Midday Oct. 9, Zenonas Vaigauskas, chairman of the General Election Committee, announced the preliminary results of the election: the Social Democratic Coalition of Algirdas Brazauskas will have 51 seats in the 141-seat Parliament; the Liberal Union - 34 seats; the New Union - 29 seats; the Conservative Party - nine seats.

The rest are fragmented among smaller parties: the Peasants' Party - four seats, the Polish Electoral Action - two seats, the Center Union - two seats, the Christian Democratic Party - two seats, the Freedom Union of Kaunas Mayor Vytautas Sustauskas - one seat (Sustauskas himself - he will leave his post as mayor), the Moderate Conservatives - one seat (for former Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius), the Christian Democratic Union - one seat, the Modern Christian Democratic Union - one seat, the Young Lithuania - one seat. Independent MPs will occupy three seats.

It seems that the Social Democratic Coalition won a battle, but not the war. The New Policy bloc received more votes, though at midday Oct. 8 the Social Democrats were still eager to form a government.

"People voted for us expecting a socially-oriented market economy. The Social Democrats rule in absolute majority in the European countries. The president should greet our victory. We want to create a government together with the Peasants' Party, the Center Union, the Christian Democratic Union," said Vytenis Andriukaitis, chairman of the Social Democratic Party which together with the Democratic Labor Party, the New Democracy Party and the Russians' Union of Lithuania formed the Social Democratic Coalition under the patronage of non-party ex-President Algirdas Brazauskas, a former leader in Lithuania's Communist Party.

The Liberal Union shirked Andriukaitis' statements. "Liberals won. Voters supported liberal ideas. The New Policy bloc should form the new government," said Eugenijus Gentvilas, Klaipeda mayor and one of the leaders of the Liberal Union.