Opposition Conservatives, Liberals Edge Toward Win in Lithuania’s General Election

Article originally posted on 4Liberty.eu, by Aneta Vaine and LFMI

Lithuania voted in the general national election on October 11. The opposition conservative party Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats secured victory in the first round of the general vote, claiming 25% of the votes and 23 seats in the country’s 141-seat parliament.

The Farmers and Greens Union came in second with 17.5% of the votes and 16 seats, a disappointing outcome for the leading member in the ruling left-of-center coalition.

The classical liberal Freedom Party, established just over a year ago by a charismatic young leader Ausrine Armonaite and Vilnius City mayor Remigijus Simasius, came out as the biggest surprise with 9 percent of the votes and eight seats. Their election campaign focuses on student-centered education, equal human rights for LGBT, legitimation of cannabis, economic innovation and e-government.

The Freedom Party outperformed the established Liberal Movement who got 6.8 percent and secured six seats.

The impressive outcome for the Freedom Party is widely noted as a long awaited shift in Lithuania’s politics and voter preferences and an increasingly active voice of the young generation.

The center-left Labor Party came in third with nine seats, outperforming by a narrow margin the Social Democrats with eight seats.

What came as another notable outcome was misperformance of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance. This party, also a member of the ruling coalition, ended up with 4.8 percent of the votes, failing to cross the required 5% electoral threshold.

The Party has received criticism from some Polish politicians for its support and connections to Russian politicians and increasingly from the Lithuanian Polish diaspora.

Six parties will be represented in the new parliament.

Only three candidates claimed victory in single-mandate constituencies in the first round, including former candidate for president, also one of the leaders of the conservative party and former finance minister who oversaw austerity measures during the 2008 financial crisis Ingrida Simonyte.

The remaining 68 MPs will be determined through a proportional vote in the second round of the elections in single-mandate constituencies on October 25.

The conservative party Homeland Union is widely expected to claim overall victory after the second round and to ally with the Freedom Party and the Liberal Movement in forming a future center-right coalition.

They have as many as 54 candidates running in the second round, compared to 32 candidates of the Farmers and Greens Union 32 and 12 of the Social Democrats. The Freedom Party has 12 more candidates and the Liberal Movement, 9.

The conservatives and liberal will be competing against each other in 18 single-mandate constituencies, which will secure 18 more seats for the center-right anyway. The conservatives will compete against the Farmers and Greens in 26 constituencies

The Farmers and Greens and the Social Democrats have already expressed their mutual support for the other candidates in the second round. These two parties are considered likely allies with the Labor Party should the Farmers and Greens receive a mandate to form a ruling coalition.

The Farmers and Greens have been running their election campaign on promises to prioritize culture, want to give more attention to regions and attract investment there. They also seek to increase family allowances, especially child benefits, establish a 13th pension to retirees before Christmas and free undergraduate studies for all students.

Expanding the state apparatus and establishing a state commercial bank are also among their priorities.

The voter turnout on October 11 was 47%, or three percentage points lower than in the 2016 general elections.