The parliamentary elections just held in Lithuania have produced the quadrennial sea change which has become the norm in that country. But if the 1992 and 1996 elections resulted in clear-cut parliamentary majorities–of the center-left and the conservative right, respectively–this election has produced a complicated political landscape, necessitating for the first time the formation of a coalition government.
Although left-of-center forces captured–as expected–more than half of the parliamentary seats, those forces are divided between two rival blocs and several small parties. Any likely governing combination will of necessity be ideologically heterogeneous, operate on a thin majority in parliament and depend on deals with miniparties to survive. Several such miniparties, holding between one and four seats each, are already trying to act as holders of the balance of power in the 141-seat parliament.
As had been predicted, the elections swept the Conservatives–the party of Vytautas Landsbergis–and their junior ally, the Christian-Democrat Party, from the power they had regained in 1996. These parties have been reduced in the first case from seventy to nine parliamentary seats, and in the second from sixteen to two.
The Social-Democratic Alliance (SDA), led by former President (1993-97) Algirdas Brazauskas, has fifty-one seats in the new parliament. SDA consists of the formerly ruling (1992-96) Democratic Labor Party, the Social-Democrat Party, the New Democracy Party of former Prime Minister (1990-91) Kazimiera Prunskiene, and the Russian Union. This homogenous left-of-center bloc, now the single-largest parliamentary force, hoped to form the new government. Brazauskas, who enjoys unmatched popularity ratings, had come out of political retirement to lead this bloc and to bid for the post of prime minister. President Valdas Adamkus, however, is set to ask the rival New Politics bloc to form the new government.
New Politics has gained sixty-six seats, five short of the arithmetical majority of seventy-one. The parties comprising the New Politics bloc–unlike those of the SDA–have different political programs and social constituencies. The presidential office played a key role in putting this bloc together, one major rationale being the need to tame and coopt the left-populist politician Arturas Paulauskas, who almost won the 1997 presidential election. His upstart party, the New Union/Social Liberals (NU/SL), was expected to emerge as the strongest left-of-center group in parliament, as well as frontrunner of the New Politics bloc in these elections. In the event, NU/SL came out in second place on both counts. Outpolled by Brazauskas’ bloc on the center-left, it also placed second in the New Politics bloc.
That bloc’s surprise frontrunner is the Liberal Union (LU), a right-of-center party representing the interests of dominant business groups. The LU has from time to time made temporary alliances with the Conservatives. Lithuania’s liberals in fact fit the description of some modern European liberal parties–notably Germany’s–as nonchurchgoing conservatives. LU has gained thirty-four seats and NU/SL twenty-nine legislative seats. The pro-presidential Center Union has been reduced to two seats, and the Modern Christian Democrats–a “moderate” splinter from the rightist Christian Democrat Party–took one seat.
Outside the two large blocs, the Farmers’ Party, a populist protest movement, took four seats; the Polish Electoral Action, which represents that minority’s interests, two seats; and six more seats went to dwarf parties and to nonparty candidates. Both the New Politics bloc and the Social-Democratic Alliance are now bidding for the support of these few deputies in return for favors to the special interests they represent. In this respect, Lithuania’s political system has graduated from the age of ideological politics to that of the parliamentary horse-trading of a maturing democracy. But the hard test of that democracy lies ahead. It will reveal whether the new parliament, with its fragmented composition and strong contingent of left-of-center populists, will adopt–not only on paper but in practice–the responsible policies necessary to sustain Lithuania’s quest for NATO and European Union membership.
The losers of this election, Fatherland Union/Lithuanian Conservatives (FU/LC) and the Christian-Democrat Party, are the direct successors of the Sajudis liberation movement of 1988-91. They lost badly in the 1992 elections to Brazauskas’ left-of-center Democratic Labor Party (DLP) and were practically counted out afterward. Yet the two rightist parties achieved a spectacular comeback in 1996, and, shortly afterward, Landsbergis rallied to the Lithuanian-American Adamkus in the presidential election runoff, ensuring Adamkus’ narrow victory over Paulauskas. During their 1996-2000 period in office, FU/LC and the Christian-Democrats were saddled with the difficult legacy of the DLP’s failed economic policies and also had to cope with the spillover from Russia’s 1998-99 crisis. The Conservatives jump-started privatization and other economic reforms, bit the bullet of those reforms ahead of the election down to the wire, and consciously accepted to pay the political price. They will use their residual strength in parliament to support the continuation of market reforms and, as a top priority, a level of defense spending that would qualify Lithuania for NATO membership (BNS, ELTA, Vilnius Radio, Ziniu Radijas, October 9-19; see the Monitor, March 28, July 6, August 4, 11, October 6, 9).
1″‘They need to make their minds up,’ one Murmansk resident was quoted as saying. ‘What are they rescuing–sailors’ bodies or military secrets?'”
2″All of this has led some observers to worry that the government plans to turn the Central Bank into a government-controlled institution, which could result in inflationary monetary policy and a weakening of the ruble.”
3″Kozhin also said that President Vladimir Putin would soon issue a decree making the Kremlin property department and the Foreign Ministry the only structures with the legal right to manage Russian state property located abroad.”
5″This homogenous left-of-center bloc, now the single-largest parliamentary force, hoped to form the new government. Brazauskas, who enjoys unmatched popularity ratings, had come out of political retirement to lead this bloc and to bid for the post of prime minister. President Valdas Adamkus, however, is set to ask the rival New Politics bloc to form the new government.”
The Monitor is a publication of the Jamestown Foundation. It is researched and written under the direction of senior analysts Jonas Bernstein, Vladimir Socor, Stephen Foye, and analysts Ilya Malyakin, Oleg Varfolomeyev and Ilias Bogatyrev. If you have any questions regarding the content of the Monitor, please contact the foundation. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at email@example.com, by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4516 43rd Street NW, Washington DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of the Monitor is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation Site Maintenance by Johnny Flash Productions