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Lithuanian Parliamentary Elections: Second Round, Two Camps Battling for the Victory

On 25 October, the majority of Lithuanians are again asked to return to the polls for the second round of the Lithuanian parliamentary election. A majority of the 141 seats in the national parliament—71 to be precise—are determined in single-member constituencies with a majoritarian system in two rounds. The first round was held October 11th, a bit over a week ago, when multiple parties vied for the place in a second-round run-off between the two most-voted parties. The second round will now commence two weeks after the first, on October 25th.

Results of the first round

The rest of the seats in the national parliament, totaling 70, were already determined based on proportional representation on the first round. The first round of the Lithuanian parliamentary elections has not failed to surprise us. The liberal Freedom Party (Laisvės partija, LP-RE) emerged as the ‘dark horse’ of these elections. Based on the pre-election opinion polls, we gave the Freedom Party a 55% chance to remain below the threshold based on local opinion p0lling. However, the party finished with 9.4%, getting very close to the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija, LSDP-S&D) at 9.6%, which before the election was seen as part of the trio fighting for the proportional vote plurality, along with the governing Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (Lietuvos valstiečių ir žaliųjų sąjunga, LVŽS-Greens/EFA) and the opposition-leading Homeland Union (Tėvynės sąjunga, TS/LKD-EPP).

The Freedom Party had especially strong performances in the big cities, including of course the capital Vilnius, where they already hold the mayorship. Also in the single-member constituencies, most pairings in the capital for the second round are now Homeland Union against Freedom Party. Most interestingly, however, the Freedom Party also obtained a considerable vote share even outside the capital Vilnius. On election day, votes from smaller cities and rural areas came in first, and already on the early count, the Freedom Party managed to stay above the 5% threshold, only to advance to the aforementioned 9.4% once the big city vote came in.

If the proportional vote were everything, we could already name a clear election winner: the centre-right. It is widely assumed, that the Homeland Union, Freedom Party, and the third centre-right liberal force, the Liberal Movement (Liberalų sąjūdis, LRLS-RE), would form a common government, if they could. However, after three single-member constituency seats already decided in the first round, 68/141 seats are still up for grabs, and decided in run-off elections that are set to happen next Sunday.

Seat plan in the traditional seating order of the Lithuanian parliament, with the government parties on the right and the opposition parties on the left. The 68 ‘split’ seats represent this Sunday’s match-ups in the single-member constituencies.

A few races that deserve particular attention are:

  • Pilaitės-Karoliniškės constituency (#8): Homeland Union’s Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė faces incumbent Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, who was nominated by the governing Farmers and Greens Union. Skvernelis performed poorly in the first round (14.88% compared to Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė’s 30.99%), and could be the next sitting Prime Minister after Algirdas Butkevičius (back then LSDP-S&D) unable to defend his constituency.
  • Vilkaviškis constituency (#68): Former Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius (LŽP-Greens/EFA) faces MMA figther and judoka Kęstutis Smirnovas (LVŽS-Greens/EFA) in the country’s only ‘green’ race. In 2016, with Butkevičius still as a Prime Minister for the Social Democrats (LSDP-S&D), Smirnovas managed to defeat him in Vilkaviškis as part of LVŽS’s landslide second round victory.
  • Raudondvaris constituency (#65): Speaker of parliament Viktoras Pranckietis (LRLS-RE) faces Raminta Popovienė, who represents the Social Democrats (LSDP-S&D). Why did the opposition Liberal Movement get the speaker post? Pranckietis, in 2016 still elected for the Farmers and Greens Union (LVŽS-Greens/EFA), refused to participate in Farmers and Greens leader’s Karbauskis’ plans to renegotiate the government agreement and redistribute the posts. According to Karbauskis’ plans, the speaker of parliament post should have been awarded to Gediminas Kirkilas (LSDDP→S&D). Following this, Pranckietis left the Farmers and Greens and became a quite independent speaker, after which the government coalition even failed to oust him from office twice. Shortly prior to these elections, Pranckietis joined the Liberal Movement’s election campaign.
  • Gargždai constituency (#31): Independent Petras Gražulis faces Homeland Union’s (TS/LKD-EPP) Rasa Petrauskienė. Gražulis is known for his controversies, for example when he demanded the deportation of homosexuals or the ban of the Homeland Union for alleged ties to terrorism.
  • Telšiai constituency (#40): This is the only race where the Centre Party–Nationalists (Centro partija–Tautininkai, CP/T→ECR) still has a chance to obtain a seat. Biržai councillor Algirdas Bacevičius is facing Labour Party’s (Darbo Partija, DP-RE) Valentinas Bukauskas here.
  • Kelmė-Šilalė constituency (#41): Here Remigijus Žemaitaitis, who initiated Order and Justice’s (Tvarka ir teisingumas, TT-*) liquidation in order to join forces with the Lithuanian Freedom Union (Lietovs laisvės sąjunga, LLS-RE), is trying to defend his seat in the next Lithuanian parliament. At the same time, he is the only candidate of his party Freedom and Justice (Laisvė ir teisingumas, LT-RE) to still have a shot at a parliamentary seat. He faces the Homeland Union’s (TS/LKD-EPP) Jonas Gudauskas.
  • Voters Abroad constituency (#71): For the first time, abroad voters vote in their own constituency and select their own member of parliament. In the first round, Freedom Party leader Aušrinė Armonaitė (LP-RE) and the leader of the Lithuanian community in the United Kingdom Dalia Asanavičiūtė (TS/LKD-EPP) received the highest vote shares.

Expectations for the second round

The Social Democrats (LSDP-S&D) and Labour Party (DP-RE) endorsed and received endorsements by the Farmers and Greens (LVŽS-Greens/EFA) already, after initially taking a neutral stance. Especially the Social Democrats, after letting their coalition government with the Farmers and Greens Union collapse in 2017 to join the opposition Homeland Union (TS/LKD-EPP) and Liberal Movement (LRLS-RE) under a joint opposition agreement, tried to maintain a neutral stance between Homeland Union and Farmers and Greens for a very long time. This went so far, that the Farmers and Greens Union even accused the Social Democrats of ‘betraying’ the ‘centre-left’ vote by secretly planning to enter a post-election alliance with the Homeland Union.

Probably also to refute these accusations, the Social Democrats now formally endorsed the Farmers and Greens Union in their struggle against the Homeland Union, notwithstanding internal criticism. In turn, the Social Democrats received the support of the Farmers and Greens, increasing their chance to overtake the Labour Party (DP-RE) after the second round to become the clear number three in terms of seats in the next Lithuanian parliament.

For the second voting round, this again leads to the traditional camps we could observe in Lithuanian politics for the past decade. On one side, the Homeland Union together with the (classic) liberal parties, on the other side a broad alliance of centre-left parties and socially conservatives. Based on these endorsements, Europe Elects has calculated a seat projection for the second voting round. Beware, this projection assumes that voters remain loyal to their parties’ endorsements and traditional alliances, and does not take into account changes in turnout and other factors. It merely represents a rough guide on what to expect from the second round if everything goes ‘normal’.

Like in 2016, LVŽS (Greens/EFA) and its allies should have a clear advantage in the second round and be able to reduce the clear lead of the centre-right parties obtained in the first round. To what extent this is going to materialise, however, is going to depend a lot on factors like mobilisation of the respective electorate and loyalty of the electorate to the respective de facto pre-election alliances. Turnout in the second voting round is traditionally significantly lower than in the first round, which makes sense considering that for many voters the first preference option is no longer going to be printed on the ballot.

Should the second election day end exactly like projected, we would likely see a continuation of the current LVŽS-led government, but with the additional support of the Social Democrats (LSDP-S&D) and the Labour Party (DP-RE), most likely supplied with confidence by a few independent MPs, the Freedom and Justice (Laisvė ir teisingumas, LT-RE) and Lithuanian Green Party (Lietuvos žaliųjų partija, LŽP-Greens/EFA) MP, former Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius.

The second election day will thus be a run-off between these two camps, and whichever camp ends up with 71+ seats is expected to form the next Lithuanian government. However, the Lithuanian president traditionally has a say in the government formation. It is him who is going to present a prime minister candidate to parliament, and President Nausėda (*) already warned that he would not necessarily pick the candidate of the largest party, but could also imagine to follow the ‘Latvian model’ and award the prime minister-ship to a junior partner of the future Lithuanian government coalition.

The president can veto any minister proposals, and following several scandals involving LLRA-KŠS (ECR)’s Transport Minister Narkevičius (Polish: Narkiewicz), the president already promised that he would prevent another government with Narkevičius in a minister position. Earlier this year, the president demanded Narkevičius’ demission, but Prime Minister Skvernelis (*), who constitutionally is in charge of requesting demissions, has refused to do so.

The second round of the Lithuanian parliamentary elections decides the ultimate fate of the Lithuanian parliament and the party which is standing last with a plurality. TS-LKD of centre-right EPP group has the best shot based on the already-awarded proportional seats, but LVŽS of Greens/EFA is facing TS-LKD in many matchups of the second round, which might ultimately turn the race around.