Parliamentary Elections in Lithuania
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27 OCT 2020 Spotlight
The second round of parliamentary elections in Lithuania ended on 25 October. The country’s right wing won in single-member constituencies, which means that the conservative Homeland Union (TS-LKD) will return to power after eight years. Although the foreign policy priorities of this centre-right government will not change the direction substantially, the nuances will be important, determining, among others, the future of relations with Poland.
Photo: Ints Kalnins/Reuters Photo: Ints Kalnins/Reuters

What were the final results?

In the first round, which ended on 11 October, wins among the conservatives were apparent. The party Homeland Union obtained 24.8% of the votes from the national list, of which 70 out of 141 deputies are elected under the mixed electoral law. The ruling LVŽS (Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union) picked up just 17.5% of votes. However, the second round of voting confirmed the support for the opposition, which in total won 74 seats in parliament. The new cabinet will be headed by Ingrida Šimonytė, probably formed from the conservatives (50 seats) and liberal parties led by Aušrinė Armonaitė and Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen. Their parties, the Freedom Party and the Liberal Movement, won 11 and 13 seats, respectively. The next parliament will also include the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania and the populist Labour Party. This time, the grouping of Lithuanian Poles did not cross the election threshold.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the elections?

Despite the pandemic, the parliamentary elections were held on the date announced by President Gitanas Nausėda during the spring lockdown. However, the authorities decided to extend it to four days of what it called “early voting”. The turnout was slightly lower than four years ago and amounted to 47.6 % in the first round. The restrictions introduced in the past months, including those concerning public events, limited campaigning in the field. Television and social media became the main forum for debate. The liberal Freedom Party, the newest one on the political scene, acted efficiently in this respect. The pandemic restrictions seemed to have hampered turnout for the ruling LVŽS, which, although assessed positively by the public in terms of management of the pandemic, gradually lost support.

Will Lithuania’s foreign policy change?

The country’s foreign policy was not a clear topic of the campaigns, unlike the presidential campaigns in 2019. This is because the constitutional prerogatives of the head of state, together with the government, include external actions (e.g., foreign policy). Lithuania’s priorities in this dimension, especially since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, remain unchanged and are based on three pillars: the alliance with the U.S. and cooperation within NATO, involvement in European politics, and opposition to Russian aggression. These issues were not the most important with voters in these elections but arose in connection with the protests in Belarus. Although there is general agreement in Lithuania of support for pro-democratic changes in Belarus, conservatives are demanding even greater involvement. Compared to LVŽS, they will also support the development of the European security dimension and more intensive regional cooperation on the Baltic Sea.

How are Polish-Lithuanian relations likely to develop?

A change in the tone of bilateral relations to a more distanced one can be expected, mainly because of the conservatives’ traditional stances, including the strong nationalistic nature of TS-LKD, as well as recent experiences in relations with Poland under the previous centre-right government (2008-2012). Bilateral relations during the rule of the LVŽS favoured the intensification of cooperation, including with the Polish minority. Issues related to Lithuanian Poles, however, will still be addressed by the new government—the likely next prime minister has advocated a positive solution to the conflict about the original spelling of surnames. The stance of the president, who supports bilateral cooperation, will have a stabilising effect. Given the closeness of interests with Lithuania, Poland will remain an important partner for the country in terms of security, energy and logistics. This also applies to matters regarding Russia, as well as the commitment to changes in Belarus.