We have the first-round preliminary election results from Lithuania, and it confirms what was previously reported, and roughly what polls had shown in the lead-up to the parliamentary elections: the two major leftist/populist opposition parties have won the most seats, likely ending the four-year government of center-right prime minister Andrius Kubilius, who ushered in an era of budget austerity following the financial crisis of 2008-09 that saw Lithuania’s GDP plummet by 15%.
The populist Darbo Partija (DP, Labour Party), led by Russian-born Viktor Uspaskich, won 19.96% of the vote yesterday, and the more traditionally center-left Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija (LSDP, Social Democratic Party of Lithuania) won 18.45%.
Kubilius’s own party, the Tėvynės sąjunga – Lietuvos krikščionys demokratai (TS-LKD, Homeland Union — Lithuanian Christian Democrats) won 14.93%, a bit higher than polls had predicted in advance of the vote.
Sunday’s vote was the first of a two-round process: 70 seats in Lithuania’s unicameral parliament, the Seimas, were alloted by proportional representation. An addition 71 seats will be determined by single-member individual districts, many of which will be determined in a runoff vote, to be held October 28. On the basis of Sunday’s vote, Labour will have won 17 seats, the Social Democrats 16 seats and Homeland Union 12 seats.
The Social Democrats and Labour are expected to win sufficient seats between yesterday and the individual district runoffs to form a government with another smaller party, Tvarka ir teisingumas (TT, Order and Justice). In the 2004 and 2008 elections, the Social Democrats have typically done as well or better in the individual districts than in the proportional vote; Labour, however, has typically done either as well or worse. So it’s still quite possible that the Social Democrats will emerge with a greater number of seats than Labour, notwithstanding Labour’s narrow victory on Sunday.
Regardless of whether Labour or the Social Democrats technically win more seats, it is expected that the leader of the Social Democrats, Algirdas Butkevičius, a former finance minister, will serve as the new prime minister. In 2004, when Labour emerged as the largest party in the Seimas (then also under Uspaskich’s leadership), it allowed a Social Democrat to be prime minister. Since then, Uspaskich has been embroiled in a corruption scandal over his party’s finances, and Uspaskich himself spent parts of 2006 and 2007 apparently in hiding in Russia.
So it’s a safe bet that the international community (especially the United States, the rest of the European Union and the bondholders who are pricing Lithuanian debt) would prefer a Butkevičius-led government, not a Uspaskich-led one — and Lithuania’s new governing coalition seems sure to recognize that. The success of Uspaskich’s party alone, and his influence on the next Lithuanian government, will itself be enough to delay a potential Lithuanian accession into the eurozone as well as cause some alarm with regard to a potentially more pro-Russia foreign policy from the Lithuanian government. A government led by Uspaskich could potentially bring Lithuania back into economic crisis and put it at odds with the rest of Europe.
In addition to the three main parties, four additional parties won seats (each party must win at least 5% of the national vote to be allocated seats on a proportional representation basis):
- The liberal (on both economic and social policy) Liberalų Sąjūdis (LRLS, Liberal Movement), which had been part of Kubilius’s governing coalition won 8.46% (seven seats);
- A new party, the right-wing populist Drąsos Kelias (The Way of Courage), which emerged as a political movement from the frustrations surrounding a 2009 child rape trial, won 7.92% of the vote (seven seats);
- Order and Justice, another populist group, led by former president Rolandas Paksas, who was impeached for corruption in 2004, won 7.38% (and six seats);
- Lietuvos lenkų rinkimų akcija (AWPL, Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania), a Christian Democratic party that represents the interests of ethnic Poles, won 5.84% (five seats).
Lietuvos valstiečių ir žaliųjų sąjunga (LVŽS, Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union) won just 3.91%, below the proportional representation threshold — but it will hope to win at least some of the individual districts (it held three seats in the last Seimas, for instance, all of which came from winning individual district).