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Lithuania’s general election – key takeaways

Lithuania’s general election is far from over, and the makeup of the Seimas, the 13th parliament, will not be known until after the decisive runoff vote this Sunday. We can, however, draw some tentative conclusions.

October 20, 2020 - Justinas Šuliokas - Articles and Commentary

Voting in the Lithuanian general elections Photo: E. Blaževič / LRT

Results in the multi-member constituency (70 seats):

Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) – 24.8 per cent (23 seats)
Farmers and Greens Union (LVŽS) – 17.5 per cent  (16 seats)
Labour Party (DP) – 9.5 per cent (9 seats)
Social Democrats (LSDP) – 9.3 per cent (8 seats)
Freedom Party (LP) – 9.0 per cent (8 seats)
Liberal Movement (LRLS) – 6.8 per cent (6 seats)

Elections at a glance

The vote on October 11th, gives a clear lead to the conservative Homeland Union, which has spent the last two terms in the opposition. The incumbent Farmers and Greens Union is in second, with the Labour Party a surprising third. The two liberal parties – Freedom Party and the Liberal Movement – also made a decent showing, thanks mostly to the urban vote that carried more weight in the election which had a turnout of less than 50 per cent.

Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the Farmers and Greens Union / E. Blaževič/LRT

What we don’t know

Only a little over half of parliamentary seats have been distributed after the vote on October 11th, with 68 mandates left to be decided after the runoffs on October 25th, as three single-member constituencies produced winners in the first round. While more Homeland Union candidates have advanced to the second round of voting than from any other party, the runoffs have historically been unfavourable to frontrunners in general, and the conservatives in particular. Expect the gap between the Homeland Union and the Farmers and Greens to narrow, if not reverse, as happened in 2016.

In the last elections, the conservatives were also leading after the first round, only to have their victory snatched two weeks later.

Are we looking at a conservative-led government?

Unless the runoffs present a major upset for the Homeland Union, its lead candidate Ingrida Šimonytė – who scored a resounding victory in her single-member constituency – is likely to be Lithuania’s next prime minister.

The conservatives’ (23 seats) natural allies in a hypothetical centre-right coalition would be the Liberal Movement (6 seats) and Freedom Party (8 seats), although they may not be enough to secure a majority.

Conservative leaders: Ingrida Šimonytė, Gabrielius Landsbergis, Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė. Photo: E. Blaževič/LRT

Another option discussed by observers is a “centre-left” coalition led by the Farmers and Greens (16 seats). None of their current partners crossed the 5 per cent threshold, but the Labour Party (9 seats after the first round) is a likely partner, as is the Social Democratic Party (8 seats).

The Labour Party could be the kingmaker, observers note, as its rather loose platform and ideology do not preclude joining either coalition.

Key surprise

The Freedom Party was hanging around the 5 per cent threshold in most pre-election opinion polls, although its key campaign issues – LGBTQ+ rights and cannabis legalisation – did not seem to endear them to “the average voter.” Nine per cent of the vote is more than anyone expected them to win.

Aušrinė Armonaitė, the leader of Freedom Party / D. Umbrasas/LRT

Key upset

The Social Democratic Party seems to be the biggest loser of the vote on October 11th, falling behind the Labour Party and within close reach of the Freedom Party newcomers. The biggest party in the country by membership, the social democrats were betting on attracting more voters thanks to their renewal under the leadership of Gintautas Paluckas, but the results are worse for them than in 2016.

Voting during the pandemic

The Central Electoral Commission put in extra effort to ensure a safe election during the COVID-19 pandemic. Early voting was extended to four days and more electoral commission members were hired to manage voter flows and collect ballots from people in mandatory self-quarantine.

Despite this, reports on the day of the vote suggested that a number of voters stuck at home could not cast their ballots – something that the Central Electoral Commission promised to address – while turnout was lower than in any other election in recent years.

Expatriate vote

Lithuanians living abroad could elect their own representative as part of a special expatriate constituency for the first time. Aušrinė Armonaitė of the Freedom Party and Dalia Asanavičiūtė, a former leader of the Lithuanian community in the UK, running with the conservatives, advanced to the second round. Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius, however, failed to meet the threshold.

This text was republished through the partnership between New Eastern Europe and LRT English.

Justinas Šuliokas is an editor with LRT English

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