This week in LT – Oct 9

Elections Are Here

Last Minute Facts & Stats

A general election will take place in Lithuania on Sunday, October 11, when citizens will vote for the eighth time since regaining independence in 1990. This will be the country’s 13th parliament. The numeration starts with four parliaments from 1920 to 1940, excluding the 1920-1922 Constituent Seimas. The Supreme Council-Reconstituent Seimas worked from 1990 to 1992.

This year, there are 2,449,683 voters on the lists confirmed by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC). The lists included 2,504,267 voters four years ago, and 2,442,587 people had the right to vote in the Seimas election in 2012.

Number of parliamentarians – 141 are elected to the Lithuanian Seimas. Seventy are elected from the candidate lists of political parties, 71 are elected in single-member constituencies. A separate constituency for Lithuanians living in the diaspora has been established for this election, taking into account the large numbers who cast their ballots abroad during the last election.

A total of 1,754 candidates, representing political parties or independents, are running for Lithuania’s parliament, two-thirds of whom are men, and one-third – women. Compared to the 2016 election, 339 more people are running for parliament this year. The CEC has outlined an average candidate profile as a 50-year-old male, named Vytautas, with higher education and assets, securities and cash funds worth almost 147,000 euros.

Seventeen political parties have produced candidate lists for the upcoming election. In 2016, there were 12 political parties and two coalitions. Six parties got into the Seimas. Political parties win seats in the multi-member constituency if they manage to get at least 5% of the total vote. Party coalitions need to get at least 7% of votes to win seats in parliament.

The second round of voting will take place on October 25. The run-off is held between two leading candidates if neither got more than 50% of the vote in the first round.

A Seimas member receives his or her mandate after being sworn in during the first sitting of  parliament. The newly-elected Seimas usually holds its first sitting in mid-November.

The CEC reported that about 7.39% of all eligible voters, or 178,145 people, have cast their ballots in Lithuania’s general elections during the four days of early voting this week, double the number recorded four years ago when 87,059 people voted before the official election day. In 2016, early voting lasted two days. Early voting was extended to four days this year due to coronavirus precautions. This year, in addition to people with disabilities and those over the age of 70, voting from home has been extended to people who are in self-isolation due to the coronavirus.


Lithuania Recalls Diplomats

The Foreign Ministry of Belarus demanded that Lithuania recall eleven diplomats. Lithuania decided to recall five, in the hope that this measure would help maintain dialogue with Minsk.

Meanwhile Poland has announced it is recalling 32 diplomats from its Minsk embassy. The donwsizing is from 50 to 18 diplomats, as demanded by the Belarusian government.

Lithuania, which has an embassy in Minsk and a consulate in Grodno, warned the Belarusian Foreign Ministry that it would take countermeasures, should Minsk continue to escalate the situation, because consular functions, the issuing of visas to Belarusian citizens and interaction with the diaspora, and communication with the Belarusian people must be allowed to continue.

Last week, Belarus recalled its ambassadors from Lithuania and Poland and demanded that the countries reduce their diplomatic staff in Minsk.

Germany, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Romania also recalled their ambassadors for consultations in a show of solidarity with Lithuania and Poland. Lithuania and Poland have been spearheading diplomatic efforts to convince the EU to support Belarusian protesters demanding democratic changes and not to recognize the victory of Alexander Lukashenko in a rigged presidential election last August. Lithuania has also imposed sanctions against Lukashenko and has been calling to blacklist him across the EU.

After Belarus accused Lithuania and Poland of “destructive” meddling, several EU countries temporarily pulled their envoys out of Minsk. Bulgaria called for “immediate and unconditional” release of political prisoners.


Looming Budget Deficit

Lithuania’s budget deficit will reach 8-9% of GDP this year due to increased borrowing during the pandemic. According to Simonas Krėpšta, adviser to President Gitanas Nausėda, the budget deficit was justified during the Covid-19 crisis due to the need to absorb shocks to the economy and retain jobs. In spring, the Lithuanian government upped the state’s borrowing limit to 5 billion euros. In 2019, Lithuania reported a budget surplus of 0.3%. He expects that the deficit next year should fall to 5-6% of GDP.

Next year, the budget should be focused on economic transformation, defence, the efforts to reduce social isolation and income inequality by increasing non-taxable income gradually, as well as on the indexation of pensions at a rate exceeding the rate of wage growth, Krėpšta said.

The government will be considering the 2021 budget bill next week, and hand it over to the Seimas by October 17. The bill will be adopted by the newly elected parliament.


US Election Divides Diaspora

Lithuanian news media carried information about the divisive presidential election in the United States exposing rifts in the Lithuanian American Community. LRT noted that the Lithuanian diaspora is deeply split into two camps over the upcoming presidential election on November 3, according to Arvydas Urbonavičius, chairman of the Lithuanian American Community. Seeing a high degree of intolerance, Urbonavičius said he has sent out letters to Lithuanians in the US encouraging them to respect each other’s choices.

Regarding the Lithuanian parliamentary election, although over 40,000 members of the Lithuanian community abroad have registered to vote, many, who have Lithuanian citizenship and therefore the right to vote, are not showing much interest in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Lithuania. According to Urbonavičius, many people do not see much point in electing parliament in a country where they do not live anymore.

                                                                                                                                                         With news from and BNS