Lithuanian farmers party sweeps to victory in second round vote

Lithuanian farmers party sweeps to victory in second round vote
Lithuania's route is unlikely to see a major diversion, despite the surprise victory of the LVZS.
By bne IntelliNews October 24, 2016

The conservative Peasant and Green Party (LVZS) won a decisive victory in the Lithuanian general election, the results of second round voting showed on October 24. 

While the agrarian party is not a parallel to the far right populists that are surging in much of Europe, its swift rise does echo other recent results. As with the push into power by 'celebrity' led parties such as Ano in the Czech Republic, LVZS appears to have benefitted from a general dissatisfaction with mainstream politics, and especially corruption and neoliberal economics.

The result sets the stage for a new coalition government in Lithuania that could include the Social Democratic Party LSDP. The current coalition leader looks to be the main beneficiary of the shift in the result during the second round. The Homeland Union appears the biggest loser; the centre-right party having won a slender lead over the Greens in the first round on October 9.

Whatever the actual make up of the coalition, a change in the country’s main policies is not expected. The conservative economic course is likely to be maintained and the Baltic state of 2.9mn people will continue to look to its membership in the EU and Nato as the basis of its security while geopolitical tension with Russia persists.

That said, under Chairman Ramunas Karbauskis, the LVZS has shown support for returning more power to national capitals from the EU. The celebrity businessman is also thought to maintain close ties to Russia. Sualius Skvernelis, a popular former anti-corruption police chief who ran as the party's candidate for prime minister, is seen as closer to the mainstream.

The LVZS will ultimately have 54 seats in the 141-seat lower house of the parliament, the Seimas. The second round surge was such that the Greens recorded the strongest result of any party since 1996, according to local media.

Homeland Union will be the second biggest party in the parliament with 31 seats. The LSDP won only 17 mandates, an effect of scandals that hit the party in the run up to the vote. 

The pro-business Liberal Movement (LS) was also tainted in recent weeks, but recovered to win 14 seats. The nationalist Order and Justice, as well as the LLRA representing the Polish minority, will have eight seats each.

Coalition talks will now begin, led by Karbauskis. The party leader has hinted either Homeland Union or the LSDP could be in coalition, although with the latter the coalition would only have a very slight majority in parliament. Karbauskis did not therefore rule out forming a grand coalition with both Homeland Union and the Social Democrats, but will clearly insist they follow his party's lead.

"I do not see [much] difference between conservatives and Social Democrats. They must decide first whether they want to be in the coalition," he said, according to Delfi. "After that, they will need to make a decision as to how willing they are for compromise with our programme."