True Lithuania

Lithuanian president and European parliament elections, 2019

2019 05 27. Lithuanians have elected the president (Gitanas Nausėda) and 11 representatives to the European Parliament. Two weeks before, there were also two failed referendums. Here is the analysis of the candidates and results.

Lithuanian presidential elections

Both candidates of Lithuanian presidential elections that made it through to the second round were surprisingly similar in beliefs, leading many voters to chose whom to vote for based on the mostly unrelated-to-ideology personal qualities of the candidates. In these, apparently, Gitanas Nausėda won: despite coming second to Ingrida Šimonytė in the first round, he managed to collect most of the votes who went to the other candidates in the first round and thus won the second round by a landslide: 66,72% to 33,28%. Among the perceived personal qualities of Nausėda in public discourse are his family (Šimonytė is unmarried) and banking career. Among Šimonytė's qualities is her association with every-popular Dalia Grybauskaitė (the outgoing president) who has introduced Šimonytė to politics, as well as a political experience (lacked by Nausėda). However, her political experience may have also hampered Šimonytė's chances, as her association with unpopular Kubilius's government may have been seen as detrimental by many voters who saw Nausėda as unstained by association with unpopular figures.

While claimed by some foreign and local analysts to be rightists, both candidates actually have many or most beliefs traditionally associated with the left. Nausėda promised to support a welfare state in a first-round election night interview.

In the portal "Mano balsas" which asked the same questions to all the presidential candidates, for instance, Šimonytė replied this way:

Šimonytė answered "no opinion" to questions "Should the state be less involved in economics?", "Should it be easier for the companies to fire employees?", "Should the public worker salaries be increased at the expense of higher taxes?", "Free market in healthcare means better services?". The only actually rightist claim she made in the questionary was a "somewhat disagree" answer to the question "Should the wealth of the rich be redistributed to the poor?".

Nausėda answered "somewhat agree" with the tenet "Should the wealth of the rich be redistributed to the poor?" and "somewhat disagree" to the tenet "Should it be easier for the companies to fire employees?". Yet, he said "somewhat agree" to "Free market in healthcare means better services" and "The state should be less involved in economics".

In terms of the Russian threat, both candidates promote a strong pro-Western stance, however, Šimonytė's answers are generally stronger than Nausėda's (both candidates "strongly agree" that sanctions for Russia cannot be repealed, however, Nausėda also somewhat agrees that the Lithuanian rhetorics against Russia are too radical).

In terms of the European Union, both candidates support further integration although "somewhat disagree" with the idea that the EU should turn into a single federation.

Both candidates are in favor of legal abortions (i.e. retaining status quo where abortions in Lithuania are legal but limited in terms of time that passed since conception). Šimonytė is more in favor of homosexual partnerships than Nausėda, while Nausėda, although male himself, is more in favor of establishing female quotas in leadership. Nausėda "strongly agrees" that nature is more important than economic growth, while Šimonytė answered no opinion and claims to see no clash between economic growth and natural conservation.

Full answers to the same questions by Ingrida Šimonytė and Gitanas Nausėda (in Lithuanian).

Every Lithuanian municipality voted for Nausėda rather than Šimonytė, with even the traditional Šimonytė's strongholds in cities voting for Nausėda this time, albeit the difference between candidates there being rather small.

The only third realistic contender for the position of President of Lithuania was Saulius Skvernelis, then prime minister, who came in third. In the first round, Nausėda received 30,94% of the vote, Šimonytė 31,31% and Skvernelis 19,58%, all the other candidates getting less than 5% each.

European parliament elections

Emigration and EU expansion meant that the number of Lithuanian representatives in the European Parliament has been decreased once again (to just 11).

This meant that while the elections are proportional (as required by EU regulations), actually most of the political campaigns were personal: most political parties expected only the leader of their list to get through at best, and thus put all their cards on that leader. A new phenomenon was a number of non-partisan "electoral blocks" created just for this election and named after their leader. Some star politicians switched allegiances for this election just to become a leader of some small party and thus the first one in the list.

The leaders who managed to get through were Aušra Maldeikienė (an outspoken far-left-leaning activist, 6,45%), Valdemar Tomaševski (ethnically Polish minority-rights activist, current MEP, 5,54%), Viktor Uspaskich (ethnically Russian businessman, current MEP, 9,04%), Petras Auštrevičius (a negotiator for Lithuanian EU membership, 6,55%).

The leaders who failed to get through this time despite being leaders were Rolandas Paksas (ex-president, outgoing MEP, 4,01%), Vytautas Radžvilas (eurosceptic political law professor, 3,35%), Antanas Guoga (a poker player noted for lively electoral campaigns, outgoing MEP, 5,13%), Valentinas Mazuronis (outgoing MEP), Gediminas Kirkilas (ex-PM, 2,37%), Artūras Zuokas (long-term mayor of Vilnius, 1,91%), Artūras Paulauskas (ex-speaker, 1,33%).

Merely three political parties managed to win more than a single European Parliament seat. Homeland Union (centrist) won three, to be filled with Andrius Kubilius (ex-PM), Rasa Juknevičienė and Liudas Mažylis (made famous by his discovery of the original of the Lithuanian act of independence). Socialdemocrats won two, to be filled with Vilija Blinkevičiūtė and Juozas Olekas. Peasants/Greens also won two, to be filled with Bronis Ropė (current MEP) and Šarūnas Marčiulionis (a former NBA basketball player).

Election results from maps.lt website. From left to right: presidential election first round, second round, and European Parliament election

Election results from maps.lt website. From left to right: presidential election first round, second round, and European Parliament election

Referendums on citizenship and MP number

Lithuanians have also voted on two referendums. In both of the referendums, Lithuanians overwhelmingly voted "for", however, the Lithuanian referendum laws - some of the tightest in the world - made both referendums not to pass.

The first referendum sought to expand dual citizenship to more Lithuanian emigrants. The referendum had the support of 72,35% voters but did not pass as it required the support of 50% total voters. With many voters emigrated and Lithuania having an especially large number of people who are apolitical with pride and do not ever vote, such result was impossible to reach. In fact, Lithuanian turnouts barely surpass 50% (and never surpass 60%), so, nearly 100% of those participating have to vote in favor for such a threshold to be passed.

The second referendum sought to lower the number of members of parliament from 141 to 121, to conform with the declining population. This referendum had 73,77% voters in favor and it had an easier threshold of 50% "of those voting in favor" - however, it failed to reach the necessary 50% turnout, with a turnout of just 47,79%. Interestingly, the few percents of people who were needed to achieve turnout did actually came to vote as they voted in the first round of the presidential election the same day (where the turnout was 56,96%). However, they understood that, if they would vote "against", the referendum proposition would have passed - as the necessary turnout would have been reached. Therefore, some voters decided not to vote at all instead, that way putting the referendum in jeopardy. This once again led observers to note the seemingly illogical Lithuanian referendum laws whereby the same number of votes "in favor" would have been enough for the proposition to pass simply if there would have been more votes "against" (if every person who refused to vote at referendum but voted at the elections that day would have voted "against" in the referendum instead, the referendum would have passed).

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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