Tuesday, 14 October 2008

RESULTS: Lithuanian Parliamentary Elections - October 12, 2008


The outgoing Parliament (Seimas) is led by a complex multi-partite coalition led by the Social Democratic Party. Centre left coalition members are The Union of Peasants, Civic Democracy Party, the Liberal and Centre Union and the New Union/Social Liberals.

16 political parties have competed in the elections of 12 October 2008. 141 members of parliament are elected for a four-year term. About half of the members of this legislative body are elected in individual constituencies (71) with the second round of elections to take place 26 October, and the other half (70) are elected by nationwide vote according to proportional representation. A party must receive at least 5% of the national vote to be represented in the Seimas.

Preliminary results

The official final results of this Sunday first round of voting to the Seimas haven't been available yet. Second round is scheduled for the 26th of October.

Preliminary data suggests the following:
Participation rate - 48.42%
In multi-mandate constituency Homeland Union-Christian Democrats party got the biggest share of votes 19,57% (17 members) and are the winners of these elections. Who are considered to be in the driving seat to forming a new government. Conservatives leader Andrius Kubilius has not yet provided any details on which political movements he intends to invite to the negotiations. It is widely expected that centre-right coalition would be their preference with the possible involvement of the Nation's Revival Party.
The latter party, is a new entity formed by an entertainer Arunas Valinskas they managed to get 15,14% (13 members).
Nation's Revival Party is a new political group, consisting of mainly show business personalities. The party is led by Arunas Valinskas, a television entertainer who also holds a law degree. Valinskas maintains that Revivalists aim to be serious political players, however he recently told voters not to expect economic miracles from the party, but promised plenty of mirth and merriment if the country slips into an economic crisis.

Third was the party of Rolandas Paksas, the impeached President, with his Party "Order and Justice" party with 12,74 % (11 members) of votes.
Leading Social Democrats are heading for a defeat - a drop from 20% that they got in 2004 to the current all time low 11.75% (11 members).
Labour Party comparing to 2004 elections experiences the biggest loss and goes down from 28% to only 9,04% (8 members).
Liberal Centre Union and Liberals Movement parties have managed to overcome the threshold of 5%. Liberal Movement got 5,68% and Liberal Centre Union 5.3% of the vote (5 members each). This makes it more than they were able to get in 2004 when the party was still united under the name of Liberal Centre Union.
Another liberal party New Union (social liberals) have failed to pass the threshold and ended up with 3.65%.
Above mentioned figures only include the party list vote, which covers 70 of the 141 seats in Parliament. The remaining 71 seats are decided in individual constituencies, most of which will require a runoff on October 26th.
The electoral campaign was strongly influenced by the new rules for political advertisement which introduced stricter regulation - only limited time on the National TV used exclusively for party debates, visual ad's only in dedicated places, etc. It has resulted in a different but more constructive campaigning compared to previous elections. Electoral debates were dominated by energy security (shutting of Ignalina nuclear power plant and building of a new NPP together with the neighbouring countries), education policy (triggered by a start of a new school year and unsolved problems in higher and university education), rising prices and to a lesser extent Lithuanian foreign policy stance.

The conflict between Georgia-Russia has renewed discussion in Lithuania on threats from its Eastern neighbour and likelihood of the NATO Allies to defend Lithuania and its interests. All parties were clear supporters of Georgia. At the same time continuation of rational policy with Russia and careful examination of western Allies in case of need were dominant across the political spectrum, with Conservatives calling for tougher stand towards Russia on the European level and for rethinking of current Lithuanian defence policy to cut conscription.

Consultative referenda

Very interesting and important element of these elections is referendum on re-negotiation with the EU the closure of the second Ignalina nuclear reactor (INPP), organised at the same time. Proposed by the Liberal Movement party, it has asked the public whether INPP should remain operational past the end of 2009. This deadline was a part of the EU-accession requirements. The issue is of utmost importance as there is no alternative in place yet to replace energy production generated by this plant (Lithuania imports all oil and gas resources, has a few hydro power plants). In this context, being against this notion is a political suicide; therefore all parties supported the referendum and called their voters to vote for it. Only the Homeland Union – Christian Democrats disapproved of it, as well as the President of Lithuania who considered this initiative a populist gesture and misleading of Lithuanian people, as Lithuania has to adhere to its international commitments.
Outcome of the consultative referendum on the future of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant has not been successful as participation rate fell short of the required 50%. Nevertheless expressed votes where overwhelmingly in favour of extending functioning of Nuclear power plant (88.6%).

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