Viewing cable 04VILNIUS1243
Title: People in the Provincial Town will Vote for Change

04VILNIUS12432004-10-08 12:54:00 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.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
SUBJECT: People in the Provincial Town will Vote for Change 
¶1. Voters in the small town of Rietavas, in western 
Lithuania, see themselves as microcosm for the nation (if a 
bit more agricultural) and believe their vote in the 
upcoming election will mirror the country's vote as a 
whole.  In Rietavas, it appears that the Labor Party will 
win big.  End summary. 
Lithuania on a smaller scale 
¶2. Rietavas, a town in the western part of Lithuania, with 
a population of 11,000, boasts an active economic life 
comparable to that in the country's larger cities.  With an 
unemployment rate of 5.9 percent, which is just below the 
national average, and 35 percent of the population engaged 
in agriculture, Rietavas is reaping the early rewards of EU 
accession.  The local animal waste products processing 
company enjoys the benefit of 35 million litas from the EU 
pre-accession fund.  Several construction companies are 
registering record growth, echoing the overall boost of the 
construction sector at the national level.  The small town 
even has a college "Zemaitijos Kolegija," which has 
efficiently shifted its focus from agriculture to 
management and economics. 
Political Situation 
¶3. Rietavas is generally an apolitical town, but these 
elections are different, says the director of the 
municipality executive branch Vytautas Diciunas.  It 
suffices to pass by a local store to hear snippets of 
conversation focused on election topics.  At the height of 
the campaign, eight candidates representing major political 
parties are all active contenders.  The list ranges from 
prominent Labor party candidate, former citizen of Rietavas 
and post-soviet bureaucrat, Jonas Jagminas, who is rumored 
to be in the running for the position of minister of 
agriculture, to television journalist, Conservative, and 
carpetbagger, Vitas Klimas, to current MP and Liberal 
Centrist, Audrius Klisonis.  According to a local member of 
the Liberal Center Party, Zigmas Dargevicius, the Labor 
Party and Liberal Center Party candidates have the greatest 
chance of winning.  The director of the municipal 
administration calls Rietavas a litmus test: Predicting the 
vote in Rietavas will provide the national election 
Labor Party is riding to the victory 
¶4. Even opponents of the Labor Party recognize that Labor 
has the best chance of winning.  Its campaign is the most 
active and visible with respect to local media coverage, 
meetings, rallies, and other local events.  Enormous 
financial resources and an effective membership enrollment 
drive have rendered the other parties powerless.  The 
skilled former leaders of the kolkhoz (soviet era 
agricultural collectives), now Labor Party leaders, tell 
the provincial residents what they want to hear. 
Farmers miss the "old days" 
¶5. A local farmer told us that he and his neighbors are 
unhappy with the current government.  They expect something 
better from new parties in power.  The Labor Party appeals 
to them as a political new comer with bright promises to 
increase pensions.  Oddly, the Labor Party, while 
representing change and progress, has kindled nostalgia for 
the "old days," and at least one third of farmers plan to 
vote for Labor.  In contrast, personality, not party 
promises, will win the votes of the local intelligentsia, 
says the local librarian.  She will vote for a candidate 
she knows personally who has helped her in the past.  The 
director of the municipal administration confirmed that the 
elite will choose their candidate on the basis of personal 
criteria -- looks or eloquence often win here, he said. 
¶6. There is political excitement and hope in Rietavas. 
People in this small provincial town are doing well, but 
want to do better.  They will vote for change (Labor) 
rather than more of the same - even if "the same" has not 
been so bad.