Today, Lithuanians will go to the polls to elect members of the Seimas. Voter polls show that the Union of Farmers and Greens, represented by the current Prime Minister Saulius Skverneelis, and the largest opposition party, the “Fatherland Union – Christian Democrats”, could get the most votes. However, after today’s vote, it is unlikely that any party will be able to crown itself the winner. The Lithuanian electoral system envisages holding a second round of voting in single-member constituencies where none of the candidates will receive at least half of the votes in the first round. Therefore, the outcome of the election is likely to be decided in two weeks’ time.
A fierce battle is expected in the elections to the Lithuanian SeimasUldis Ķezberis00:00 / 00:00
Lithuanian citizens will elect the 13th Seimas today, but this will be the eighth parliamentary election since the restoration of independence in 1990. Voters will nominate a total of 141 legislators. 70 will be elected from the lists of candidates nominated by political parties, and 71 – from single-member constituencies.
Slightly more than 1,700 candidates are running in these elections, the vast majority of whom – almost 67% – are men.
The Lithuanian Central Election Commission has established a profile of the average candidate. He is a 50-year-old man named Vytautas, he has a higher education, but the value of this candidate’s assets, securities and cash savings reaches almost 147 thousand euros, writes the Lithuanian public media portal “Lrt.lt”.
The Central Election Commission reports that almost 2.5 million people have the right to vote in these elections. This is slightly less than in the previous elections in 2016.
Those citizens who will not be able to vote today had the opportunity to do so in the previous vote. It usually has two days, but this time due to the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic, the previous vote took four days. The Central Election Commission reports that more than 178 thousand voters or almost 7.4% of eligible voters voted from Monday to Thursday. Voter turnout was so high that long queues formed at many polling stations.
A resident of the capital, Vilnius, was happy that she had the opportunity to vote earlier. She thought it was safer.
“It simply came to our notice then. It was a great opportunity to avoid crowding indoors. There will also be no need to vote on the holidays. I felt safe because everything was well organized. I think that this is how all the elections should be conducted, ”the woman said.
To reduce the risk of infecting or infecting others, voters must come to the polls with face and nose masks and their own pens.
In order to enter the Seimas, parties have to overcome the 5%, but party associations – 7% vote barrier. In turn, from the single-member districts, those candidates who receive more than 50% of the vote will enter the parliament. In those constituencies in which no candidate receives more than half of the votes, a second ballot will take place in two weeks’ time. In the previous elections, only three candidates from single-member constituencies entered the Seimas after the first round.
Latvian Radio asked Vilnius University professor Aine Ramonaite to name the dominant issues during the pre-election campaign. She replied that it was difficult to highlight any specific topics.
“Probably the most discussed topic was the work of the current government. The efforts of this government to overcome the Covid-19 crisis and the high budget expenditures associated with this crisis. In my opinion, this was the most important issue, “said Ramonaite.
Currently, the Lithuanian Farmers ‘and Greens’ Union is in power in the country, and the Social Democratic Labor Party and the pro-Russian party “Lithuanian Polish Election Campaign – Union of Christian Families” also work in the coalition led by them.
Several ministers of this government have been involved in corruption scandals. Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has also been forced to justify conflicts of interest. This summer, public outrage was fueled by news that the government had provided funding to renovate a street in Vilnius leading to the prime minister’s residence.
The party ratings published this week show that the Farmers ‘and Greens’ Union is still the most popular party in the country. Just over 21% of voters are going to vote for it. In turn, about 16% could vote for the largest opposition party “Fatherland Union – Christian Democrats”. 13% of voters are preparing to vote for the Social Democratic Party, according to a survey conducted by the sociological research company Baltijos tyrimai.
Professor Ramonaite believes that these three political forces are election favorites, without whose participation it will not be possible to form the next government.
“We have had three leading parties for some time. Firstly, it is the current Union of Farmers and Greens. It is followed by the “Fatherland Union – Christian Democrats”. These are the two most popular parties in voter polls. Usually the third most popular party is the Social Democrats.
The problem is that the three parties are very different and do not want to work in one coalition. Therefore, the formation of the next government will depend on other parties that will be able to overcome the threshold of votes required to enter parliament.
We have a rather complicated electoral system, so it is not easy to say what the outcome of the elections might be. The second round of elections usually introduces significant adjustments. It is not yet clear what success the liberal parties will have. If they succeed, then we can expect a right-wing coalition dominated by the Homeland Union. If not, then the Union of Farmers and Greens will most likely form a coalition again, ”Ramonaite predicts.
Political scientist Ramūns Vilpišauskas says that the biggest intrigue of these Seimas elections will be whether the “Fatherland Union – Christian Democrats” will succeed in gaining enough votes to form a coalition with liberal parties or other forces. The Conservative force has been in opposition for eight years.
“An interesting situation may arise when the Conservatives become the largest faction in parliament but are unable to form a ruling coalition due to a lack of partners.
This could open an opportunity for the Farmers ‘and Greens’ Union to form a government together with the Social Democrats, the Labor Party or smaller political forces, and come to power again, ”Vilpišausks told Latvijas Radio.
Ramonaite doubts the possibility of forming a so-called “grand coalition”, in which the Farmers ‘and Greens’ Union and the “Fatherland Union – Christian Democrats” would work together, because there are irreconcilable differences between these political forces. “Zaļzemnieki” and “tēvzemieši” before the elections had launched mutual defamation campaigns, which is an unusual practice in Lithuanian politics.
“The conflict has escalated so much that it is difficult to imagine this party coming to a compromise and working in one coalition.
After the previous elections in 2016, there was an opportunity to form such a coalition, but now it does not seem realistic, ”Ramonaite thinks.
Experts question the possibility that the winner will be known after the first round of elections. They remind that in 2016, in the first round, the “Fatherland Union – Christian Democrats” won the most votes, but after the second round, the situation changed radically and the winning champagne could be uncorked by the farmers ‘and Greens’ union politicians.