Lithuania elected its new Parliament (Seimas) on Sunday. The results are quite unexpected but not surprising at the same time. The winner is again a new party that promised to ‘save’ the country and eliminate all of its systemic problems (like emigration, poverty and social exclusion).
The Lithuanian Peasants and Greens party (Lietuvos valstiečių ir žaliųjų sąjunga) won 56 seats out of 141. This is a significant result for several reasons: it is the largest number of seats won by a single party since the 1996 election; there are usually seven or eight political parties in each Lithuanian parliament; and most important, the party only won a single seat at the last elections in 2012.
So how does one explain such a successful election result?
Firstly, the governing record of the previous coalition – led by the Labour Party and Social Democrats Party – which ran the country for the past four years, and which lost in total 51 seats at the election. Secondly, the political right (Homeland Union and Liberal Movement) did not attract new voters. Back in the spring of this year, the Liberal Movement was one of the most promising political parties and enjoyed one of the highest ratings in opinion polls. However, the corruption scandal involving the head of the party, Eligijus Masiulis, dashed their hopes and led voters to look for something ‘fresh and new’.
It was therefore the Lithuanian Peasants and Greens who benefited, and most convincingly spoke of the ‘changes’ that voters wanted. Their political position is not, however, very clear. It appears to be a mixture of socialist ideas (i.e. progressive tax), strong green positions (i.e. anti-GMOs), ‘traditional family’ oriented policies and a number of proposed state interventions (i.e. introduction of a national monopoly for sales of alcohol). They also promised to fight corruption, attract new investment and bring back those Lithuanians who have left their home country. However, all the good intentions of the party are sometimes overshadowed by the reputation of the party leader Ramunas Karbauskis, a multi-millionaire businessman and philanthropist, who is also considered by some to have ‘pro-Russian’ views.
One of the main requests of the Lithuanian Peasants and Greens is to form a ‘Government of Professionals’, with experts rather than politicians leading the ministries. It is yet not clear which party or parties will form the government alongside the Lithuanian Peasants and Greens. They are currently ‘shopping’ both in the left and in the right and ‘remain open’ for debate. The coalition should be decided within a week.
Kristina Budrytė-Ridard is Senior Consultant at FTI Consulting in Brussels.