Lithuanian Parliamentarian elections, a ‘bad guy’ lost

October 22, 2007 at 11:27 pm 3 comments

Elections by ELTAWith the general elections rolling across Europe many did not notice that simultaneously an important elections took place in Lithuania.  A new parliamentarian was elected to replace a Conservative Vrubliauskas who turned in his MP’s mandate in spring to become the mayor of the Alytus district. 

However, the elections were not only about a single place in a parliament.  It was about the voice of a corrupt populism with a strong tail lead to Russia, against a voice of a civic society in face of a Human Rights lawyer.

Those who follow the Baltic politics have inevitably heard a name of Mr Viktor Uspaskich. The former minister and ex-leader of the Labour Party, a multi-millionaire Viktor Uspaskich, lost to the lawyer Kęstutis Čilinskas proposed by the Conservative party.  The charismatic maverick multi-millionaire received 42.73% against 55.33% for Čilinskas.

Uspaskich, who is suspect in the case of fraudulent bookkeeping of his Labour Party and declaration of erroneous data of the party’s income and application thereof to the State Tax Authority and the Central Electoral Committee, had been hiding in Russia for about eighteen months.  Since his return few weeks ago Uspaskich was placed under home arrest in his adopted home town of dainiai, where he build his empire, before entering the Lithuanian politics.

The Conservative candidate is also known for representing Mrs Budrevičienė in a court suing one of the Mr Uspaskich factory’s management after she was fired once she went public to disclose illegal payments to the workers.

However, analysing the results from the Alytus county one should be very careful about generalizations on the national scale.  The Alytus County is a conservative party stronghold, this is part of Lithuanian where the serfdom was abolished earliest in Lithuania, and the national rebirth movement was a very strog at the beginning of the 20 Century.  At the beginning of the Soviet occupation the Anti-Soviet Partisan movement was still actively operating in the region well after Stalin’s death.

One should also keep in mind that Uspaskich had disadvantages since he is under the home arrest and was not able physically travel to agitate to the Alytus region.  Still, almost 43% for Uspaskich is a very good result for the candidate considering the factors mentioned above.

On the other hand this is a huge blow to a over confident Uspaskich who was certain over his victory since a prospect of being elected and receiving an immunity after, was one of the most important reason for his return to Lithuania.

Prof Lansbergis, most prominent Lithuanian politician, who few days ago celebrated his 75th noted to the BNS that “Definitely, it is very pleasant because the person was elected, because bad person didn’t win and, finally, because the elections were not won by money”.

However, in his words, the victory of Čilinskas is pleasant but does not indicate any significant changes on Lithuania’s political arena – the changes should emerge after the nearest general elections to the Seimas next Autumn 2008.

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Entry filed under: Baltic States, Lithuania, Northern Europe, Politics. Tags: .

Lithuanians like EU but not too keen on Euro, yet The Economist is wrong, I hope (III)

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mel  |  October 23, 2007 at 2:42 am

    Actually, this is rather worrisome of a result. If Uspaskich can manage so many votes in Alytus under house arrest, his true popularity in other regions may be much higher.

    Last time when he led his new party to such a spectacular result, there were a lot of Labour Party voters who didn’t even realise he was Russian — and could barely pronounce his name. Sure, that was less an issue then — but now it is a major issue. Not because he is ethnic anything, but the fact he used his Russian background to hide in Russia instead of adhering to the laws of the country where he held political power — Lithuania.

    What would people say if Dr Bobelis was the one involved and he fled to the US?

    This is what’s scary, that Uspaskich can still get so many votes. Sure, lots represent protest votes against the Conservatives, but still, it takes a major effort to vote for such a person, especially as his background is now well-known and has essentially become an issue.

    Reply
  • 2. Ruslanas Iržikevičius  |  October 23, 2007 at 9:10 am

    Hi Mel,

    I agree with you that this is a victory with a very uncomfortable margin. However, having in mind that most of the analytics predicted Uspaskich’s victory in the first place this is a good result. However, as the Labour party stated yesterday, the election was a superb training ground and loosing a battle would help them to win a war. Rumour has it that the populist Labour and Liberal Democrats (Paksas) party might be heading for a merger, which would create a strong populist party. But this is only a rumour.

    Mind you that it still one year until the general elections to go. One year is a very long time in Lithuania, especially in its’ politics. Many things will happen, the traditional parties should get a grip. Still, the populists are very good at mobilising their electorate at the last minute. Further more, there are some tensions in the economy with inflation rising and prospects of ‘soft landing’ which is not a bad thing in itself. However, this might hurt the 20%-25% of protest voters and increase chances for the populists.

    Overall I agree with you that situation in the political front is a very bad one.

    Best regards,

    Reply
  • 3. mel  |  October 23, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Laba diena:

    Lithuania has always managed a rather strong protest vote, partly because of its hybrid electoral system. Though things are not as colourful now as it was in the late 1990s with Buskevicius, Karbauskis and friends. It’s possible to protest using the first-past-the-post system, especially on a run-off of “less desirables” compared to the party list.

    I think it is still worrisome that a protest vote could cause an accident. You wonder whether Madame Prunskiene could have accidentally become president due to that. Nevertheless, you are right, a year is a long, long time in politics in Lithuania.

    If Uspaskich and Paksas team up, it could be very formidable, the creation of an “oligarchic” type of party. This is the type of party that is currently causing Latvia’s political meltdown and is dangerous in democracies that focus on philosophy rather than personality. These two are trying to “easternise” Lithuanian politics. Kalvitis, Skele, Slesers and friends have done the same up north, and you see the results. This is why I worry.

    iki.

    Reply

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