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Monday 23.01.2017 | Name days: Strauta, Grieta
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Lithuania’s 2016 Parliament election dark horse emerges

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Linas Jegelevicius

The otherwise smooth, predictable and tedious Lithuanian political landscape has been visibly shaken up by the rise of a new, attractive and ambitious political force, Lithuania’s Peasant and Greens Union (LVZS), which is led by a millionaire businessman and generous patron of culture Ramūnas Karbauskis.

Social Democrats and Liberals failed to snatch coveted top-ranker

The party’s constantly-growing ratings are expected to spire after the much sought-after Saulius Skvernelis, the country’s Interior minister, currently enjoying record 60 percent favourability in the polls, has announced this week of participating in the Parliament election later this year on LVZS’s electoral list. He, however, will not join the party so far.

«I’ve made up my mind to participate in the election with people, who base their works, ideas and thought on values. With those who cherish the ambition to change the state (for better) and create other kind of politics, which is human, honest and based on decency and keeping the word,» Skvernelis told at a joint press conference with the party leader, Karbauskis.

The Interior minister had been courted by the Social Democrat Party and Lithuania’s Liberal Movement- they have admitted they were in talks with Skvernelis over his joining- so his decision to join the LVZS electoral list came as astonishment to many.

But many Lithuanian political analysts were not surprised by the decision and lavished Lithuania’s Peasant and Greens Union with praises.

Already dubbed as the nearing election’s «dark horse», LVZS has been constantly adding up a percentage-by-percentage to the growing public support, which has reached a record-high 6.7 percent now, and the coming of Skvernelis is expected to boost it to new heights.

Rise was slow but firm and stable

«The Peasant and Greens Union’s rise has been very slow but firm and stable. Quite astonishingly, the party was off radars of media until very recently, but now the situation has changed. It ended up being in the limelight, which will prop up the party,» Vladas Gaidys, the director of polling and market research company Vilmorus, told BNN.

He confessed he was caught «off guard» by the firm ascension of the Peasant and Greens Union onto the political stage over the last couple of years.

«Such formations as this makes the politics much more interesting,» Gaidys says.

Intrinsically to LVZS, its ascension was marked with the «conquering» of «many hearts» in the provinces, says the pollster.

«Other parties usually focus on their appearances in media as the main tool in growing the popularity. The Peasant and Greens Union has chosen quite another, unchartered by others path: helping out local communities, working with them and enjoying the accomplishments together,» the pollster underlined.

Karbauskis, the party leader, is known as a very successful agrarian businessman, who in his native village of Naisiai in Siauliai district has created an exemplary local community, with its own theatre, newspaper, radio and where all are said to be teetotalers.

He is also the spearhead and main patron of the Naisiai Theatre Festival, a major summer event in Lithuania, also held in Naisiai.

In the recent ranking of Lithuania’s most popular politicians, Karbauskis stands fourth, right after Skvernelis, President Dalia Grybauskaitė and Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius.

«The party and its leader have already long created a buzz in hinterlands. But the party has for long evaded media’s attention until now. But now it will be in the headlines. No doubts about it,» Gaidys told.

He believes that LVZS can take off with a well thought-out electoral campaign.

«The party is «not-feuding» and, therefore, remains as a second choice for many voters,» the Vilmorus head noted.

How to get around archaic word «peasant»?

The pollster, however, pays attention to the archaic word «peasant» in the party’s name, which, he believes, might ward off some voters.

«The word in Lithuanian sounds very archaic, so it remains to be seen if residents of urban regions will embrace it. I perhaps would not be very surprised if they decide to tweak the name a little bit,» Gaidys said.

The arrival of popular Skvernelis to the party election list will definitely serve as a boost, he agreed.

In the recent party ranking compiled by Spinter tyrimai, a polling company, LVZS in the popularity rankings is rights after the seasoned political heavyweights: Labour Party and Party of Order and Justice.

In the poll, with 10,5 percent of support, the latter stood fourth, behind the Social Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives (Homeland Union- Lithuanian Christian Democrats), and the Labourists were fifth with 7,4 percent. LVZS gas garnered a record-high 6,7 percent of support in the survey. The Electoral Action of Poles was awarded 4,8 percent of the favourability with MP Linas Balsys – chaired Lithuanian Green Union clinching the last spot in the ranking.

Party has a charismatic leader

The pollsters noted that people living in centers of provinces and those older in age sympathize for Social Democrats. Meanwhile, Liberals are more popular with city residents and those who are better educated and have higher earnings. For that electorate, they are vying with Conservatives, who have a bulky share of supporters in rural areas, too.

«There have not been any changes on top of the party rankings for long, but now the Peasant and Greens Union is set to shake it up», believes Mažvydas Jastramskis, a political analyst and lecturer at the Institute of International Relations and Politics at Vilnius University.

According to him, the party’s success should be chalked up to the charismatic leader, Karbauskis, who has earned respect in Northern Lithuania waging war against alcoholism, especially in his native Naisiai, and rooting it out.

«Besides, part of voters started looking for alternatives for the Party of Order and Justice and the labourists. As the alternative to many is LVZS, which has a certain base of values,» the analyst pointed out.

With Skvernelis on board, the Peasant and Greens Union will, very likely, will hit double-digits in polls, he is convinced.

«That will have a big impact on the balance of ruling coalition and opposition parties in the new Parliament. In other words, the spectrum of possible political coalitions expands with LVZS doing so well,» Jastramskis is convinced.

Speaking to BNN, he called LVZS «typical» to centre-oriented Scandinavian parties.

«I am pretty sure they can speak over a new coalition both with the Social Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals,» Jastramskis told.

Unlike pollster Gaidys, he does not find the party name« archaic».

«Many European parties’ names bear descriptions alluding the century-old history,» he underlined.

Some common values are shared

The analyst called the Skvernelis decision «not the one that could be called easily predicted», but speculated that the minister’s «rationality» has taken over in making up his mind.

«As a rational man and professional, he chose a political force that opens up big possibilities for him. The Social Democrats, who have also invited him to join the party, perhaps thought that he would not make it to top of the party leadership. When it comes to LVZS, it does not have many other outstanding personalities except Karbauskis, so in the party he will definitely be one of its leaders and will be able to have clout on it and its decisions,»  the analyst reasoned.

Regional politics and Karbauskis’s exhortation for a sober Lithuania will be among the topics of common interests between the minister and the rising party, Jastramskis believes.

Speaking to Delfi.lt, Bernaras Ivanovas, a political analyst and lecturer of Kaunas Vytautas Magnus University, pondered that with Skvernelis on the LVZS electoral list, the party’s ratings will «undoubtedly» go up. And the party’s muscling up will likely come at the expense of Labour Party as well as the Party Order and Justice.

«LVZS is coming out from a shadow, gaining popularity and, with such a popular man as Skvernelis on the list, it is set to strengthen,» the analyst said.

Ref: 111.111.103.3340


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