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Lithuanian municipality and mayor elections 2019 results

Lithuanian election marathon began on 2019 03 03 with the Municipal Council and mayor elections.

The popularity of the non-partisan electoral committees has severely strengthened as they took 26,76% of the total votes (up from 10,59% in the 2015 elections) and won in all 5 main city municipalities. Many regular party member politicians, including incumbent mayors, decided to form their own ad hoc committees for this election rather than run on their party lists. In Lithuania, parties are generally mistrusted as "machines of corruption" by parts of the population, leading to massive support for non-partisan lists. Still, until the 2015 election, only parties were allowed to field candidates for the municipal councils.

As the major parties lost some key politicians to the committees, their results plummeted. Still, the Homeland Union (centrist) managed to strengthen its result (16,05%, up from 15,72%).

Socialdemocrats (centre-left) declined to 13,24%, coming second (19,05% in 2015).

Peasants/Greens (centre-left, agriculturalist), on the one hand, strengthened their result significantly to 11,16% from 6,82% four years ago. However, their result is likely more worrying than joyful for them as in the parliamentary election of 2016 they were the first in the number of MPs election while now they are third among the parties. Peasants/Greens mostly swept the largely rural municipalities but now they also gained a foothold in some cities.

Liberal Movement ended up fourth among the parties but, with just 5,89% of the vote in place of 15,54% four years ago, it became the big loser, mostly due to the defections of key politicians. Liberal Movement essentially lost its strongest bases of Vilnius and Klaipėda as popular mayors of both cities defected to their own electoral committees as their party was marred in corruption scandals and increasingly abandoned the libertarian ideology for more US-style liberalism.

Labour Party continued its decline, now gaining 5,09% of vote instead of 8,42% 4 years ago, although achieving some key victories.

Poles' electoral action (Tomaševski's), long increasing its voter numbers by also attracting the other minorities (especially Russians) and trying to attract religious Christians who are also essentially a minority after the Soviet occupation (even naming the coalition "Union of Christian families"), now suffered a small blow as well. Their support dwindled from 7,76% to 5%, largely due to numerous minority-oriented non-partisan committees taking part of their traditional electorate and certain parties also attracting it.

Lithuanian municipalities by the leading party in the 2019 municipal elections

Lithuanian municipalities by the leading party in the 2019 municipal elections

The last three parties essentially became regional parties as they did not even seriously contest many municipalities, preferring to concentrate forces on where they are strong. While the Poles' Electoral Action always was, by nature, regional (strong only in the minority-majority areas), Liberal Movement and Labour Party both were once strong nationally. Two additional such once nationally-powerful but now essentially regional parties are Order and Justice and Freedom Union, faring well only in the few municipalities were they are historically strong (and winning the elections there).

2019 Lithuanian municipal election results in the main municipalities

In the major cities, the incumbent powers fared well which is quite rare for Lithuanian politics where people often tend to vote out the incumbents and being an incumbent is usually considered a weakness rather than strength as any unpopular-yet-unavoidable decisions strains the popularity and increases that of the opposition. As the Lithuanian economy is now strong, however, the need for the unpopular decisions has been lower than usual.

Below are the election results in the 6 main municipalities (each with a population of some 100 000 or more).

Vilnius city

In Vilnius, the forces of the incumbent mayor Remigijus Šimašius prevailed, albeit now under an independent committee flag rather than under that of the Liberal Movement. They gained 15 seats (17 seats four years ago).

The arch-opponent and eminent figure of Vilnius political life ex-mayor Artūras Zuokas made somewhat of a comeback, however, with his committee called "Happy Vilnius" now taking 10 seats (his party won 6 seats 4 years ago).

Šimašius (37,8% of the mayoral vote) and Zuokas (22,99%) will also face each other in the second round of the mayoral elections, repeating the battle won by Šimašius 4 years ago. In the second round, Šimašius won, albeit with a smaller percentage than four years ago 60%-38% this time.

Among the parties, Homeland Union increased its presence from 8 to 9. The big losers were the Valdemar Tomaševski's block which lost much of their electorate, declining from 10 to 6 seats. The reason for that is the establishment of several minority-oriented electoral committees (which did not gain any seats) and the masterstroke of the Labour party which sent their ethnically Russian leader Viktor Uspaskich to lead the Vilnius list and candidate in the mayoral race.

While Uspaskich had little chance in becoming a mayor of Vilnius where Labour Party never was strong (he came up third with 10,9% of the vote), his name attracted numerous Russian voters away from the Polish-dominated (albeit officially representing all minorities) Tomaševski block. Labour Party thus managed to win 5 seats in the municipal council while previously it had none.

Peasants/Greens took the remaining 3 seats while the Liberal Movement, Order and Justice, Lithuanian List, and Socialdemocrats will no longer be represented.

Kaunas city

In one of the largest landslides of the Lithuanian electoral history, the incumbent mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis had totally swept away all the opponents. He was reelected in the first round as a mayor, gaining a sweeping 79,59% of the popular vote. His electoral committee now gained an absolute majority - 32 seats out of 40, with Homeland Union forming the sole opposition with the remaining 8 seats.

4 years ago, Matijošaitis faced much more of an uphill struggle with just 36,85% of the votes in the first round and just 16 out of 40 seats in the council, necessitating a coalition.

Previously a businessman, he quickly became one of the most popular mayors in Lithuanian history and is credited for reversing the status of Kaunas as a provincial city well behind Vilnius and even Klaipėda according to the most statistics, attracting foreign investment, combatting corruption, etc.

Matijošaitis was even seen as a likely next president of Lithuania in the 2019 May elections - however, he chose to run for Kaunas mayor instead.

Klaipėda city

In the traditional Liberal bastion of Klaipėda, the liberal mayor Vytautas Grubliauskas fared well enough, albeit now under his own committee flag rather than that of the Liberal Movement.

Grubliauskas's committee gained 9 seats and the Liberal Movement gained 3 (11 last year, when Grubliauskas was still in the Liberal Movement). In the mayoral elections Grubliauskas will have to stand in the second round against Arvydas Vaitkus of Peasants/Greens. This party won 7 seats while it did not even contest the previous election in Klaipėda, showing the massive increase-in-power of Peasants/Greens in the recent years as the party turned from representing just the interests of the peasants to have a wider appeal for those who like Lithuanian traditions, are against alcoholism, support protecting nature and such.

Homeland Union gained 6 seats (up from 4), Center Party 3 seats and the Russian-interests electoral committee Titov and Justice gained 2 seats, replacing Tomaševski's block (and its Russian Alliance), as well as the Russian Union as the representatives of the Klaipėda's Russian minority in the municipal council.

Grubliauskas retained the mayoral seat in the second round in the tightest race among the big cities, defeating the peasant representative Arvydas Vaitkus 55%-44%.

Šiauliai city

Šiauliai became yet another city where the present mayor has strengthened positions. Visockas's list gained 15 seats instead of 5 it had the last election, coming just 1 short of absolute majority.

Visockas himself was re-elected in the first round (52,98% of the vote instead of 16,65% last election).

The fragmented opposition will consist of Peasants/Greens (3 seats), Homeland Union (3 seats), Šimulik electoral committee (3 seats), as well as Socialdemocrats, Labour party and Liberal Movement with 2 seats each.

Panevėžys city

While the incumbent mayor Rytis Mykolas Račkauskas has also dominated the Panevėžys elections (with 8 seats and 28,62% of the mayoral vote), here he had to face a strong opposition of his former ally anti-corruption activist Povilas Urbšys, whose electoral committee Račkauskas has left in order to found his own one.

Urbšys's committee gained 4 seats and Urbšys himself 18,01% of the mayoral vote, pitting him against Račkauskas in the second round. Račkauskas won the second round as well, however, 59%-38%.

In 2015, the then-united Urbšys's and Račkauskas's movement won 7 seats.

Panevėžys municipality will also have 5 Homeland Union members, 3 Peasants/Greens, and 2 each Socialdemocrats, Greens and Liberal Movement politicians.

Vilnius district

In Vilnius district, the hegemony of the Tomaševski's Poles' electoral action continued without facing the struggles it did elsewhere.

However, it suffered a small decline from 20 to 18 seats. Such decline happens almost every election and is likely attributable to the changing demography in the region as many ethnic Lithuanians move in from Vilnius city due to suburbanization and they usually don't vote for the Tomaševski's minority-rights block. Still, the district likely remains minority-majority for now and so are its councils.

The opposition will consist of Center-right coalition (6 seats), Socialdemocrats (4 seats) and Labour party (2 seats).

Mairja Rekst was re-elected in the first round (52,48%). She continued to be the female mayor that rules the largest municipality population-wise.

Upcoming elections and referendums

In the upcoming three months, Lithuanians will vote in the second round of the mayor elections (in the municipalities where noc andidate received 50% of total vote in the first round), the European Parliament election, the president election and the referendum on dual citizenship expansion.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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