Viewing cable 04VILNIUS1239
Title: LITHUANIAN CHEESE CAPITAL NODS LEFT, BUT WITH

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
04VILNIUS12392004-10-08 10:52:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 001239 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/NB 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV SOCI LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIAN CHEESE CAPITAL NODS LEFT, BUT WITH 
LITTLE THOUGHT TO THE ELECTIONS 
 
 
¶1. SUMMARY: Rokiskis is a town of approximately 16,000 
located in northeastern Lithuania and the capital of a 
productive agricultural region famous for the cheese brand 
that bears its name.  The director of the cheese factory, 
sharing the spotlight with the visiting Prime Minister, was 
the local star of the recent town festival, where cheese- 
related activities overshadowed political events.  Rokiskis 
residents generally express support for left wing parties 
(Social Democrats, Peasants Party, and to a lesser extent 
the Labor Party) in upcoming elections.  Overall, however, 
eligible voters display apathy towards politics and to 
their local candidates in particular.  Political corruption 
scandals and the government's focus on foreign policy goals 
have left Lithuania's rural electorate cold and led them 
toward politicians who will attend to more basic social 
problems.  END SUMMARY. 
 
Cheese for One and All 
---------------------- 
¶2. We recently traveled to Rokiskis during the annual town 
festival.  The successful cheese producer Rokiskio Suris is 
the town's largest employer, and much of the rural 
population from the surrounding countryside has a hand in 
cheese production. 
 
¶3. Rokiskio Suris, celebrating 40 years of operations in 
town, dominated the annual town festival.  The public 
flocked to the cheese tasting tents in droves, and the 
company's "VIP" tent was a cheese-lover's banquet. 
Rokiskio Suris Director Antanas Trumpa, a friend of Prime 
Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, overshadowed the town's mayor 
and other local politicians and is clearly the city's 
dominant public figure.  Rokiskio Suris executives told us 
that 80% of their cheese is now sold abroad, and exports 
account for a growing portion of the company's profits. 
Rokiskio Suris does export to small specialty stores in 
Chicago and New York. 
 
Electorate: Leftist Inclinations... 
----------------------------------- 
¶4. Discussing the upcoming Parliamentary elections, most 
Rokiskis residents we met said that they favor Brazauskas' 
Social Democrats or Kazimira Prunskiene's Peasants Party. 
Brazauskas made a short speech at the festival 
congratulating the town on its birthday, and those in 
attendance responded well to the Prime Minister's short 
visit. (Note: Brazauskas was born in the Rokiskis region.) 
Local residents all emphasized that social issues, 
especially pension reform, alcoholism, and rural poverty, 
top the town's policy agenda.  The head of the town's 
community center opined that the Social Democrats and 
Peasants best address the social agenda and will win the 
Rokiskis vote. 
 
¶5. According to national polls, the Labor Party is also 
likely to perform well in Rokiskis, although many locals 
suspect the promises of the newly-founded party.  Several 
residents expressed support for rising star Petras 
Austrevicius and for the Liberal Center Party, although one 
woman who is considering voting for Austrevicius could not 
remember the name of the "urbane party" (the Liberal 
Center) on whose ticket the candidate is running.  A 
shopkeeper also relished the opportunity to lambast 
supporters of impeached President Rolandas Paksas, whom she 
claimed Rokiskis citizens distrust due to the fact that he 
is a "westerner." 
 
...But Not Politically Inclined 
------------------------------- 
¶6. The people of Rokiskis, although willing to discuss 
their political views openly, appeared largely apathetic. 
The vast majority of respondents said that they intend to 
vote but are dissatisfied with most of the options and have 
not yet decided for whom they will cast their ballots. 
Some younger residents said that they have no interest in 
political issues and will not head to the polls. 
 
¶7. Concerning the race for the town's lone single mandate 
representative, the head of the town's community center 
commented that the local candidates for this year's 
elections are rather weak. "There's no one for us to vote 
for," she said.  Peasants Party candidate Zenonas 
Akramavicius held a small campaign event parallel to the 
town festival; the event attendees were noticeably older 
citizens, many of whom had come into town from surrounding 
farms.  Although Akramavicius is well known in the town for 
his work on the city council, his own campaign volunteers 
could not explain why he was a good candidate beyond the 
fact that he is a "good man" and "from the Peasants Party." 
 
Comment: Social Issues Critical to Election 
------------------------------------------- 
¶8. Our trip to agricultural Lithuania highlighted that 
social issues, especially demands for a better pension 
system, are critical for the average Lithuanian voter in 
this election.  Traditionally, Lithuania's left-wing 
parties focus more on these concerns, but in this election 
all parties are now actively campaigning on similar 
platforms.  Overall, multiple political corruption scandals 
and the GOL's focus on pursuing the foreign policy goals of 
NATO and EU accession have wearied the rural electorate. 
In Lithuania's cheese capital, at least, politicians will 
have better luck stirring up the fondue than the public's 
interest. 
 
MULL