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Lithuania: party leaders face scrutiny with Seimas election nearer

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Gabrielius Landsbergis

Linas Jegelevicius for the BNN

The U.S. presidential race is clearly reverberating overseas in a tiny Lithuania, readying for the parliamentary elections in early October. With the Americans scaling Donald Trump, the Republican nominee in the race, whether he is fit or unfit to be a new President of the United States, some Lithuanian analysts started likewise  weighing the leaders of the Lithuanian political parties whether they can be entrusted reins of a new Lithuanian government.

TS-LKD leader fits best

First it was Albinas Januška, the signatory of the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania, who speaking to the national broadcaster lrt.lt made a guess that Gabrielius Landsbergis, the chairman of the Homeland Union- Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD), known as Lithuanian conservatives, stands the best chances for the post.

«The scandal that shook up Liberals (the party’s leader Eligijus Masiulis faces bribery charges-L.J.) plays into hand of TS-LKD, which now can collect parliamentary seats in single-mandate constituencies (in which the Liberal candidates were expected to win -L.J.). And it is big now,» Januška said.

The candidacy of Gabrielius Landsbergis, the grandson of Vytautas Landsbergis, the architect of Lithuania’s modern-time politics, for premiership just a couple of months ago seemed «surrealistic», he suggested.

«As the party has been climbing in the polls, now the possibility seems a lot more real. They can possibly form a new government with the peasants (Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LVŽS)-L.J.), liberals and somebody else,» the signatory said, adding, «But as half of the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament-L.J.) consists of MPs elected in single-mandate electoral districts, social democrats stand a chance, too, if they show good election results.»

Januška, however, emphasized that not political analysts but the country’s prosecutors are in the best position to make precise forecasts on the election results.

«They are resolvedly now shuffling Lithuania’s political system,» he underscored.

Landsbergis junior lacks experience

Disagreeing on junior Landsbergis, Jūratė Novagrockienė, political scientist at General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania, says that the TS-LKD standard-bearer has to obtain more political experience first.

«He has jumped into the politics very swiftly. The fact that he has served as a euro-parliamentarian in Brussels counts little when it comes to accruing experience in national politics. Namely because of the little political experience on the home stage it is too early for him to be a Prime Minister. Wherever the formation of a new coalition takes to, a more solid candidate is necessary,» she says.

Considering Gabrielius Landsbergis for premiership, the party’s inner groups and their interests have to be taken into consideration, as well as the new Coalition partners’ demands, she pointed out.

«And finally, tribute to the party seniors has to be paid. There have been certain blunders within the Conservative Party, so taking into account all, any dissatisfaction (over Gabrielius Landsbergis as PM) within it can stymie the new coalition later; especially that it if such is not a stable entity, just because it encompasses different interests and different party personalities. I think the entirety of the factors is not in favour of Gabrielius Landsbergis as a potential new premier,» Novagrockienė underlined.

Peasants may lead the band

Asked who has the best chance to orchestrate the post-election coalition, she pointed to the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LVŽS).

«They are certainly aware of it, so whoever they will be talking to after the elections and whoever will be talking to them, the party holds an advantage over the rest. It does seem that they can be a very attractive partner for a new coalition and can therefore dictate their conditions,» the analyst believes.

However, it is still too premature to extrapolate what parties will be engaged in coalition formation talks, she cautions.

«The results can turn out to be rather unexpected and may not reflect the ratings we are seeing now. There are still many people who do not know who they will vote for. And liberals, and conservatives and peasants and greens can notch up a lot more votes than the ratings suggest them now. And certainly the social democrats’ possibilities in single-mandate districts are not bad,» the analyst claimed.

Similar party election programmes

Approached by BNN, Linas Kojala, the new Director of Vilnius-based Eastern Europe studies centre, underscored that, unlike in the US presidential race, where the candidates are starkly different, the leaders of the most Lithuanian parties are pretty similar.

«What makes the pick-up of a new premier difficult is that party election programmes lack major differences. Therefore, it is hard for the voters to understand what alternatives, if any, the parties and their respective leaders offer,» the analyst pointed out.

Still, Kojala believes that Ramūnas Karbauskis, the chairman of LVŽS has to prove a lot more as a top-tier politician than the rest party leaders.

«As a party leader, he is unfamiliar to many and the party he chairs, LVŽS, is new in the Lithuanian political landscape, too. So from that standpoint, both the party and the leader has to exhibit what the party stands for and what is all about,» Kojala said.

As for Gabrielius Landsbergis, he says the TS-LKD leader signifies change- rejuvenation – in national politics and, therefore, he can attract many younger voters who want the young generation to have a firmer say in politics.

«His young age, novel ideas he is preaching, insistence on the necessity of rejuvenation, as well as the niche left for the conservatives by the embattled liberals after the fall of their leader- all of the factors are in favour of Landsbergis,» the analyst believes.

Some factors more important

Although it’s way too early to predict winners and losers of the election, one of the factors stands out in formation of a new government.

«I mean which party will gain most seats in the new legislature. Whatever the party it appears to be, it will be in a position to start new coalition formation talks,» Kojala underlined. «I’d say we may end up seeing three or even four parties with the votes spread evenly among them. In that case, having a couple of more seats will give the party an edge.»

And if the social democrats gain a mathematical majority in the new Seimas, it will be Algirdas Butkevičius who will continue being PM.

«The social democratic government sometimes lacked determination in tackling issues it was facing, as well as clearer strategic goals. In the context, it would be interesting to observe Butkevičius, whether he would do anything differently in a new government,» the analyst said.

Reflecting on the recent polls lining up social democrats, peasants and conservatives on top, Kojala reasons the parties will likely drift to October 8, the election day, with the support they have now.

«But note that conservatives and social democrats can be misrepresented in the polls, as they do not heed the strong base that both parties have. The turn-up of Conservatives at the voting booths is usually higher than the polls predict,» Kojala noted.

«No 1 question is what party will come out as the election’s winner. And what party will garner most seats in single-mandate districts. The two factors will be key in forming a new ruling coalition,» he emphasized.

Ref: 020/111.111.111.3950


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