Political parties in Lithuania | True Lithuania
True Lithuania

Political parties in Lithuania

Two major parties dominate the Lithuanian political landscape since independence: the leftist Lithuanian Socialdemocratic Party, which is a mix of former communists and non-communist socialdemocrats, and the Homeland Union, a centrist conservative force descending mostly from the Sąjūdis opposition movement against the Soviet Union. These two parties always retain representation in Seimas and most of the 60 municipalities. Each of them receives between 10% and 30% of the national vote.

Since the early 2000s, Liberals established themselves as the third force. Characterized by laissez-faire market approach the Liberal parties gain 10% to 15% of votes, but their support is limited to main cities.

These political blocks are known as the "conventional parties", with the fragmented nationalists (supported by ~2%) also among them.

The "conventional parties", however, together receive only some 55% of the votes. The remainder of the political arena is largely filled by smaller and constantly changing political blocks, each of them centered around some particular politician or a famous person. Currently the most popular among these are Order and Justice, led by impeached president Rolandas Paksas, the Labour party, led by a Russian businessman Viktor Uspaskich and the Peasants/Greens, led by a millionaire farmer Ramūnas Karbauskis.

When people vote for these “personal parties” they usually have the leaders in mind rather than the ideology. Therefore when the popularity of these leaders plummets whole such parties fail to reach the necessary 5% thresholds, become insignificant and eventually dissolve. This is what happened to the Artūras Paulauskas’s New Union, Viktoras Muntianas’s Citizen Democratic Party and Arūnas Valinskas’s National Renaissance Party. Some of these political blocks live for up to 10 years, others do well only in single elections and loose popularity soon afterward.

The division of conventional vs. personal parties is at least as deep-rooted in Lithuania as either left vs. right or liberal vs. conservative. Supporters of conventional parties regard their opponents to be populists and lacking common views while the personal party proponents see the conventional parties as some faceless machines of corruption.

On the fringe of political landscape, there are a few radical parties, such as the far left communist Frontas. Unlike in the Western Europe, however, in Lithuania these are not popular and are almost never elected, gaining a few seats at a couple of municipalities at best.

Additionally, there are Russian and Polish ethnic parties. While the Russian parties are not very popular, the Lithuanian Poles’ Electoral Action dominates in the municipalities of southeastern Lithuania where the majority of inhabitants are Polish-speaking. It gets 3% to 7% vote nationwide.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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