The results of the first round of Lithuania’s parliamentary election, held yesterday, make for unhappy reading for the centre-left. On first round vote shares, the nation’s Socialist International member Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija (Lithuanian Social Democratic Party), until now the senior partner in the nation’s governing coalition under Prime Minister Gediminias Kirkilas, looks set to sink to a deeply depressing fourth place, behind the main centre-right party Tėvynės sąjunga – Lietuvos krikscionys demokratai (Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats).
In second and third place are two new parties which are being widely described as ‘populist’: the National Revival Party, formed by TV and pop personalities with 15.5% and the Order and Justice Party, founded by impeached former President Rolands Paksaswith 12.9%. Mr Paksas was formerly a member of the Homeland Union, prior to obtaining the dubious honour of being the first European head of state to be successfully impeached in 2004, for corrupt practices. He is currently forbidden from leaving Lithuania.
The other major left-leaning party, Darbo Partija (Labour Party), which was founded in 2003 and became the largest party in Parliament in 2004, looks set to fall to fifth place with around 9.2% of the vote. Labour had been in coalition with the Social Democrats until the election.
As is likely to be the case in every general election across the world for the next few years at least, the faltering economy appears to have been the main issue in the election. Whilst, as we may be seeing in Britain, it is not impossible for incumbent governments to benefit from the situation, this has clearly not been the case in Lithuania.
Yesterday’s election decides 70 of the 141 seats in the unicameral parliament via a proportional list system, with the 71 single-mandate seats decided by a French-style run-off next Sunday on Sunday 26th October, meaning that at this stage it is hard to tell what the likely coalition formation will be. Paksas has said that he is disinclined to work with either the Social Democrats or Christian Democrats, but it is unclear whether a coalition of the two ‘new’ parties would be practicable. However, both take a broadly centrist political approach and appear to favour a more Russia-friendly (and by association, anti-EU) foreign policy than has been pursued by the governments led by the centre-left and centre-right parties.
As the election isn’t over by some stretch, I will leave off posting a table of results until after next Sunday the second round. However, advance warning that it won’t look pretty is probably in order.
As a side-note, Lithuanians also voted in a (non-binding) referendum yesterday as to whether the country should close down its sole Chernobyl-style Soviet-era nuclear reactor, which had been a condition of EU accession. However, the Ignalina power stationprovides around 70% of Lithuania’s electricity supply, and closure would increase dependency on imported Russian energy. In the referendum, 89% of those voting supported the retention of Ingalina, but the turnout, at 47.8%, fell below the 50% legal threshold for the result to be considered valid – a strange stipulation in a country that struggles to achieve that level of turnout for a parliamentary general election.