Viewing cable 09VILNIUS254
Title: LITHUANIA'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MAY SHIFT FROM

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
09VILNIUS2542009-05-08 12:50:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
VZCZCXRO9808
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHVL #0254/01 1281250
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081250Z MAY 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3475
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000254 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/08/2019 
TAGS: PGOV LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIA'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MAY SHIFT FROM 
QUIET PATH TO LOW ROAD 
 
REF: VILNIUS 144 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John A. Cloud for reasons 1.4(b) and (d). 
 
¶1. (C) Summary:  Lithuania's presidential election campaign 
remains quiet, with frontrunner Dalia Grybauskaite, currently 
on leave from her position as European Commissioner for 
Financial Programming and Budget, still far ahead of the six 
other candidates in the polls.  Grybauskaite has thus far 
deflected rumors of her homosexuality and past cooperation 
with the KGB.  But we have heard from a senior official that 
media sources plan to present photos disputing her claims in 
the days remaining before the May 17 election.  Lithuania has 
a reputation as a homophobic country, but nobody knows what 
effect publication of such photos would have on 
Grybauskaite's chances.  End summary. 
 
¶2. (U) Seven candidates are running to succeed Valdas Adamkus 
as president of Lithuania for a five-year term: 
Grybauskaite, an independent who has been endorsed by several 
parties, including the Conservatives; Social Democratic Party 
leader Algirdas Butkevicius; Order and Justice Party 
candidate Valentinas Mazuronis; former Peasants' National 
Union party leader Kazimira Prunskiene; Labor Party candidate 
Loreta Grauziniene; Lithuanian Polish Electoral Action party 
leader Valdemar Tomasevski; and retired Brig. Gen. Ceslovas 
Jezerskas, running as an independent though he is a member of 
the Order and Justice Party.  Campaigning has been quiet, 
with Grybauskaite getting by far the most media attention. 
 
¶3. (U) According to polling done April 22-28, when voters 
were asked "Which of these presidential candidates would you 
vote for on May 17?" 52.8 percent chose Grybauskaite. 
Butkevicius had 9.4 percent support, and Prunskiene had 5.7 
percent. All other candidates drew less than 5 percent. 
Grybauskaite's numbers had dropped about 10 percent since a 
March poll by the same company, but Butkevicius gained only 4 
percent. From March to April, the percentage of undecided 
voters jumped from 10 to 19 percent.  (Note:  in our 
experience, Lithuanian polls, despite their statistical 
rigor, are sometimes wildly wrong.) 
 
Winning in the first round means more than 50 percent 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
¶4. (U) Because of her commanding lead in opinion polls, 
getting out the vote may be more important to Grybauskaite's 
campaign than getting out her message.  To win in the first 
round, a candidate needs a majority of votes cast if voter 
turnout is above 50 percent.  If turnout is below 50 percent, 
a candidate must receive votes equal to one-third of 
Lithuania's 2.67 million registered voters. Thus, if turnout 
were 50 percent plus one voter, a candidate could win in the 
first round with a majority of votes cast, or just over 25 
percent of the number of voters registered. But if turnout 
were 50 percent minus one voter, a candidate would need about 
67 percent of the votes cast, or one-third of the number of 
voters registered, to win in the first round. 
 
¶5. (U) In the first round of parliamentary elections in 
October 2008, voter turnout was about 48 percent.  In the 
first round of the 2004 presidential election, it was also 48 
percent, climbing to 52 percent in the second round.  So 
Grybauskaite, if her large lead in the polls holds up, could 
benefit even by encouraging supporters of her opponents to go 
to vote against her, since a heavier turnout could help her 
avoid a second round of voting, where results have 
historically been less predictable. 
 
¶6. (U) "Because of the economic depression, many of our 
pensioners will go to work in their vegetable gardens on 
election day rather than vote," said Vladas Gaidys, director 
of the Vilmorus polling company. "Last year, voters forgot 
about this part of our economy. This year, they're not 
forgetting" their vegetable gardens, because money is tight 
for so many people. 
 
¶7. (U) Elections for the European Parliament, which are done 
entirely by party list in Lithuania, are scheduled for June 
7, concurrent with a second round, if necessary, in the 
presidential election.  Voter interest in those elections is 
low, so having a second round of presidential voting could 
increase turnout and benefit parties whose presidential 
candidate reached the runoff round.  The Conservatives, who 
support Grybauskaite, and the Social Democrats, whose leader 
Butkevicius is second in opinion polls, are the largest 
parties. 
 
Will Grybauskaite's past catch up with her? 
------------------------------------------- 
 
¶8. (C) In addition to the usual ups and downs of any 
 
VILNIUS 00000254  002 OF 002 
 
 
campaign, there are two things that could significantly 
damage Grybauskaite's chances for winning:  her links to the 
Communist Party (before independence), and allegations that 
she is a lesbian. 
 
¶9. (U) Ties to communism have not stopped others from 
attaining high office here, but there is certainly a segment 
of society that views such ties as disqualifying. 
Grybauskaite was a member of the Communist Party from 1977 
until 1989.  She worked at the Communist Party school in 
Vilnius from 1983 to 1990.  Fortunately for Grybauskaite, she 
has already received the backing of Lithuania's most ardent 
communist-bashers:  MEP Vytautas Landsbergis, Defense 
Minister Rasa Jukneviciene, and others have publicly backed 
Grybauskaite.  Whether this will effectively defuse the issue 
remains to be seen. 
 
¶10. (C) The allegations of her homosexuality are another 
matter. Lithuania is the only country in the EU to have 
refused permits for the European Commission's "Tolerance 
Truck" to set up and promote tolerance of minorities, 
including homosexuals.  The public largely supported the 
refusals. 
 
¶11. (C) Almost as soon as she announced her candidacy in late 
February, Grybauskaite was asked whether she was a lesbian. 
She said she was not, and the issue, which many had expected 
to play a large role in the campaign against her, gained 
little traction.  But we have been told by a senior 
government official that someone in the media claimed to him 
to have photographic "evidence."  At a late April campaign 
event, Grybauskaite said she had heard rumors of a 
compromising videotape:  "I know about that. I have been 
threatened for two years. I was advised not even to dream 
about running for president.  There are various rumors spread 
among journalists, and I consider this just an attempt to 
apply psychological pressure.... I understand that and am 
psychologically ready for that. The election will show 
whether people are able to tell the difference between truth 
and lies." 
 
¶12. (C) Gaidys, whose polls documented Grybauskaite's 
popularity even before she announced her candidacy, said that 
her popularity goes against all tradition in Lithuania. 
"She's a woman, maybe a lesbian, a teacher from the Communist 
Party school.  There are rumors that she is maybe not 
Lithuanian, but maybe Jewish.  She has the support of the 
Conservative Party.  She never says, 'In the future, we will 
live better.'  This woman has all possible stigmas.  Yet all 
demographic and social groups like her: the young, the old, 
the educated, the uneducated, all party groups. It's so 
unusual that I'm a little bit afraid of this phenomenon. Is 
it real?" 
 
¶13. (U) Gaidys added that Grybauskaite's popularity is 
inversely related to Lithuanians' confidence index.  As the 
country lost its optimistic outlook, Grybauskaite's 
popularity rose.  "Her popularity is in strong connection to 
economic expectations," Gaidys said. 
 
¶14. (C) Comment: Political polling often seems to indicate 
that the farther a person is from actually being involved in 
politics, the more popular they are.  Thus, Grybauskaite's 
long residence in Brussels helped her.  In our view, the 
decline in her polling numbers is less a function of 
allegations about her personal life, than of her becoming 
more familiar to voters.  Her popularity is still unmatched 
with just over a week to go before the first round.  End 
comment. 
CLOUD