Viewing cable 08VILNIUS850
Title: LITHUANIA'S SEIMAS ELECTIONS: THE QUIET CAMPAIGN

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
08VILNIUS8502008-10-10 12:01:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
VZCZCXRO3200
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHVL #0850/01 2841201
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 101201Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2926
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000850 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/09/2018 
TAGS: PGOV LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIA'S SEIMAS ELECTIONS:  THE QUIET CAMPAIGN 
 
REF: A. VILNIUS 763 
     ¶B. VILNIUS 646 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John A. Cloud for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
¶1. (U) This is the third in a series of reports on the 
upcoming parliamentary elections in Lithuania. 
 
¶2. (C) SUMMARY.  Lithuania will hold parliamentary elections 
on October 12, with run-off elections on October 26.  No 
party is likely to win more than a third of the parliament's 
141 seats.  A new government likely will be formed in 
mid-November.  The election campaign has been subdued and 
most observers expect a turnout between 40 and 50 percent, 
although we have heard predictions as low as 38 percent. 
Good weather, concern about inflation, and fears of a 
financial crisis might combine to boost turnout, which will 
likely be a key factor.  Low turnout would favor the 
Conservatives; high turnout would favor the two populist 
parties, Labor and Order and Justice.  End summary. 
 
The Quiet Campaign 
------------------ 
 
¶3. (U) The new election campaign law that prohibits TV and 
radio advertising (ref A), combined with already existing 
regulations, has made for a subdued campaign.  In the two 
week run-up to the elections there are weekly television 
debates arranged by the Election Commission and there are a 
plethora of print ads and direct mailings, but overall the 
campaign is quiet.  Advertising in public spaces is limited 
to temporary plywood signboards in designated places. 
Signboards are plastered with small posters from a variety of 
parties, most of which are not visible from passing cars. 
 
¶4.  (U) Changes to the election laws already appear to be 
having a negative impact on voter turnout.  Whereas seven 
percent of voters voted by mail (absentee) in the last 
parliamentary election, this option has been eliminated. 
Instead, early voting began on October 8 to accommodate those 
who, on election day, will be away from the locality where 
they vote.  Although 16,000 people went to vote that day, 
this amounts to only .6 percent of registered voters.    In 
conversations with average Lithuanians, most people say they 
will vote, and fears of a financial crisis and general 
frustration with high inflation may boost turnout, favoring 
populists.  But history would instruct otherwise.  Turnout 
for the last parliamentary election was 46.8 percent.  For 
the 2007 municipal elections, the figure was 41 percent.  One 
political insider predicted to us it could be as low as 38 
percent this time around.  Low turnout would favor the 
Conservatives, whose diehard members most certainly will 
vote. 
 
Four parties continue to lead opinion polls 
------------------------------------------- 
 
¶5.  (U) Four parties have led the polls for the last six 
months:  two "traditional" parties, the Conservatives 
(Homeland Union) and the Social Democrats; and two "populist" 
parties, Labor, and Order and Justice (ref B).  The polls, 
however, vary greatly and are not reliable.  In addition to 
the considerable disparity among the four leading polling 
companies, the process of polling itself is facing 
difficulties because of increasing wages and a tight labor 
market, despite the recent economic slowdown.  Vladas Gaidys, 
director of the polling company Vilmorus, told us that it is 
increasingly difficult to hire interviewers.  Political 
analyst and Kaunas Technical University professor Algis 
Krupavicius told us that one polling company needed ten days, 
instead of the usual two or three, to complete its monthly 
poll. 
 
¶6.  (U) Of the four leading parties, the opposition 
Conservatives and opposition Order and Justice look poised 
for a strong showing.  The Conservatives have a committed 
base and are the traditional opponent of the ruling Social 
Democrats.  Order and Justice has run the strongest campaign, 
especially in rural areas and small cities, and attracted the 
most funding -- 2.8 million litas (1.1 million USD) versus 
1.7 million litas (680,000 USD) for the Conservatives, the 
next highest fund-raisers.  Order and Justice also benefited 
from a feature film based on the life of its chairman, 
impeached ex-President Rolandas Paksas.  It was shown for 
free in movie theaters and broadcast on a national television 
network.  The Election Commission fined the film's director 
for failure to disclose his funding sources, but ruled that 
there were no grounds to prevent its airing on television. 
 
 
Second and Third Tier Parties 
----------------------------- 
 
 
VILNIUS 00000850  002 OF 002 
 
 
¶7.  (U) In addition to the Social Democrats and Labor -- who 
are weaker than they have been in the past, but will still be 
represented in the next parliament -- three other parties 
might fare well.  The Peasants' Party, led by Agriculture 
Minister Kazimiera Prunskiene, has a small but solid rural 
base and Prunskiene is an established force in national 
politics.  The Liberal and Center Union, led by former 
Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas, has run a sophisticated 
campaign with automated phone calls and an American PR 
consultant.  The biggest wild card is the National Revival 
party, led by comedian Arunas Valinskas, whose stated goal is 
to draw votes away from the populists, in particular Order 
and Justice. 
 
¶8.  (U) There are two parties on the cusp of crossing the 
five percent threshold for party list seats and who also have 
may win single mandate seats:  the left-leaning, current 
coalition partner Social Liberals (Chaired by Arturas 
Paulauskas) and the center-right Liberal Movement.  Two 
parties that will rely on single mandate districts to get 
seats are the newly formed, far left Front, whose chair is 
former Social Democrat Algirdas Paleckis and the Polish 
Electoral Action party, which usually wins one or two seats. 
 
Coalition:  More than a month away 
---------------------------------- 
 
¶9.  (U) The October 12 elections will decide about 80 of the 
141 seats of the Parliament -- the 70 MPs selected by party 
list and a few single mandate district seats.  The October 26 
run-off election will determine the remaining 60 or so single 
mandate seats where a candidate failed to get over 50 percent 
of the vote in the first round.  Thus, the coalition 
formation process will remain muddy for some time. 
 
¶10.  (C) Based on conversations with party leaders, it is 
clear that it would be no party leader's first choice to work 
with the Paksas-led Order and Justice Party.  Even Peasants' 
Party chair Prunskiene, who is a frequent and sometimes 
fawning guest at Order and Justice party congresses, noted 
that it would be "uncomfortable" to work with Paksas. 
Conservative Party Chair Andrius Kubilius has Qso told us 
that Paksas is the least desirable of partners.  But it will 
all come down to arithmetic, and, although we believe it 
highly unlikely that the Conservatives would go into 
coalition with Order and Justice, we would not rule anything 
out. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
¶11.  (C) Barring an unforeseen landslide by Order and Justice 
or the Conservatives, the October 12 elections will not shed 
much light on who will be part of a new ruling coalition. 
The ideological malleability of most political parties means 
that virtually any combination is possible. 
CLOUD