The head of the Seimas TS-LKD fraction Kubilius urged to “not be sad,” but also to “not be too happy.” According to him there are several reasons for why the election results turned out as they did. As for what awaits during the four years of a new coalition, he found hard to predict.
“There is no reason to be happy – we lost the election. What the Peasant-Social Democrat coalition will do over the coming four years is hard to predict today. Perhaps even something good or at least popular, but hoping for essential structural reform would be naïve.
You can blame the Conservatives that they are to blame, when in discussions on a potential coalition they asked what the content of the coalition’s work will be and received no clear response. Or asked for transparency from coalition leaders in terms of national security. You can call it arrogance, failing to notice that the “Peasant” leader already from the notable pre-second round debates demonstrated that his choice of coalition partner is “not with the Conservatives.” There is nothing odd in it, perhaps our own naiveté is to blame, that we hoped things could be different.
The coalition will be formed as the “Peasant” leader wills it, not how the voters who voted “for change” willed it, now being left disappointed seeing that the Peasant-Social Democrat coalition will likely not bring any reform (some derisively joke that the only change is that the “golden fork” coalition is changing to a “golden pitchfork” coalition). The disappointed are angry, seeking an answer as to who is to blame; internet trolls quickly offer an answer, that the Conservatives are to blame for everything, Kubilius, Landsbergis and etc. There is nothing new in this, it has been heard many times before so such a “déjà vu” is becoming uninteresting and analysing or being sad about the hubbub surrounding the forming of the coalition is futile.
It is worth asking some key questions as to what exactly is happening in Lithuania that we have this sort of election result. And once again, we cannot fall into autumn depression and hopelessness due to the results, thinking that future elections in Lithuania will always end just like this, where new powers, lacking experience in state government and not familiar to the public use anti-establishment narratives and oligarchic funding to wipe out any chances for Lithuania to have a wise, intellectual political government, dedicated and focused on serious structural reform.
We all understand the key reasons similarly, why we have what we do. Andrius Užkalnis says much truth in his latest angry, sarcastic Facebook post. The vocabulary and the tone are not suitable, but the truth is simple – in Vilnius more than 30% of the voters vote for Conservatives, while in the rest of Lithuania the slogan “all against the Conservatives” is the most popular. The Conservatives are just an indicator, voters are still divided by an invisible line which stems from the Sąjūdis era.
Nostalgia for the past remains a powerful force, deciding the election results in a part of Lithuania and it cannot be defeated by any changes in the Conservative party. This can only be defeated through changes in Lithuania itself, in the generations of people and the prevailing mentality.
The problem is that there are no simple ways of easily curing such “nostalgia diseases” because differently from real medicine, where a doctor prescribes medicaments, this social “disease” relies on self-prescribed medicine by society, voters themselves. By choosing the new and easy “saviour” medicine, decorated with “Naisiai summer” illusions, which do not cure of anything, just push into a more entrenched illness, this part of society once again harms not just itself, but the entirety of Lithuania.
This problem is well known not only to us. The famous Samuel Huntingdon wrote much not only about clashes of civilizations, but also about young democracies and the processes that happen in the societies of such democracies. He has accurately observed that such a nostalgia to the past and the anti-establishment voting that is based on it allows for the creation of only a weak government. Such a government is incapable of resolving real problems, which is why a great deal of anger accumulates, as a result of which an even weaker government is elected next time and the cycle continues to accelerate.
The “Peasants” fortune in this election is the result of the Social Democrat government’s final failure – the people voted not only against the Social Democrats and their cabinet they were fed up with, but against all of “government” in the broad sense of the word, against the whole “system.” We are living based on Huntingdon’s observations.
Some ask why this isn’t happening in neighbouring Estonia. Why is it that you do not see the influence of “nostalgic” voters in Estonia? The difference is that there the “nostalgic” voters vote for the Centre Party which is also supported by a vast Russian-speaking community. The party is held to be pro-Russian in Estonia, despite still being led by E. Savisaar, one of the leaders of the Estonian Independence Movement. All other parties refuse to form a coalition with the Centre Party, despite it consistently winning elections, gathering nearly 30% of the vote and thus in Estonia the “nostalgic” voters cannot influence the politics of the state.
I understand that some may find it disrespectful and arrogant to call a part of the Lithuanian electorate “nostalgic” (I can at least be excused in not using the term “vatniks”). I will immediately say that I am doing such analysis not in order to insult anyone. I am basing it on Ronald Reagan’s famous principle – “don’t be afraid to see what you see.” In other words, do not fear to clearly identify problems, do not fear to speak up about them. This is the only way to resolve those problems, only by diagnosing a disease can you help a patient get better.
Similarly we have to openly identify another problem of ours. We wrote on it in our 2014 strategic document “The Soft Strategy of Russian Containment” for which Ramūnas Karbauskis took us to court, accusing of slander, albeit the court did not observe anything as such. The document described how the Kremlin is employing its soft power approach in our region. One of the architects of the approach Konstantin Kosachev openly explained that the main goal of such a Kremlin strategy is to change the overly pro-Western elites in countries such as Lithuania. The Kremlin planned to do this covertly, subtly, but also directly influencing the views and political preferences of the “common folk.” For this, Lithuanian businesses with interests in Russia are being exploited. It is not up to me to decide whether the Kremlin is successful in their aims, however the pro-Western Conservatives in Lithuania are constantly the least favourite “alternate choice” party, while various internet trolls keep repeating that the same old Landsbergis or Kubilius are to blame. And this influences election results.
Today it is too early to raise any greater questions on the Kremlin’s strategy and its completion, however remembering the greatest “earthquakes” in the Lithuanian political sphere these past 20 years, inevitably we encounter three names – R. Paksas, V. Uspaskich and R. Karbauskis. Are they only united by similar electorates or perhaps something more? Only time will tell.
But why do I say “KEEP YOUR CHIN UP!” despite seeing all this?
First of all because I remain an incorrigible optimist and I am convinced that in terms of geopolitics and the long term, nothing can prevent the advancement of Lithuania. It can slow down, it can be sidelined for a time, but we will still return to Lithuania’s main path – that of a Western, not Eastern Lithuania. Yes, both the West and we have ample problems right now (sometimes too many, it seems), but this changes nothing.
I understand that to many (me as well) it appears that we are losing time, but the construction of a state takes patience. An unending effort. Some problems, particularly of public awareness, cannot be resolved in a day. It is even worth asking yourself if there even are any means of improving such awareness beyond time and the wait for a new generation.
But this doesn’t mean that we have to lower our heads and sit there in silence. Yes, public and political processes are happening more rapidly in Vilnius than elsewhere in Lithuania. In the cities faster than in the province, but they are all headed in the same direction. In Vilnius, almost 50% of the voters who turned up voted for either the Conservatives or the Liberals. The Homeland Union achieved a “personal record” in this election, more than 270 000 voters voted for us. This “personal victory” did not turn into an election victory in the second round because the slogan “all against the Conservatives” prevailed, hence we’ve nothing to celebrate. But neither do we have time to be sad, new work awaits.
And new tasks, first of all, have to be oriented to what is most obstructive to necessary changes in Lithuania – that is a large part of the electorate holding anti-establishment anger. It is simple to encourage it, easy to manipulate, even when you go into politics backed by big money, pretending to care about regular impoverished people, supposedly abused by a corrupt party elite.
This doesn’t mean that we, the Conservatives, or urban (especially in Vilnius) voters, have a right to be angry or turn away from voters who feel this way. I know that the term “empathy” does not fit with the harsh “Kubilius” image, but we have to demonstrate true empathy to these voters. This is why in this election I ran for office not in Vilnius, but in Šalčininkai. Our empathy, however, should not be the “tear wiping”, not the one promising Naisiai summers, not the sort that screams out anti-establishment slogans, that Lithuania is dying and the traditional parties are to blame, it should be optimistic and objective. It won’t be “professionals” who save Lithuania, it will be a traditional, Western and strong democracy that pushes Lithuania forward, no matter how much the new Kremlin soft power tries to stop it.
This is why I call everyone to keep their heads up. Let us not forget – the easy path is not our path!
Thus let us not seek the easy path to be in some sort of (who knows what) petty government in the name of a few posts. If we are invited, we will seriously negotiate. If the “Peasants” are easier off with the Social Democrats – that is the “Peasants’” choice. A choice that makes it easier for them, but not Lithuania. But such is the choice of Lithuania right now. And we have no right to be upset about such a choice. We have only one right – to once again roll up our sleeves for big tasks. Because the new Lithuania is awaiting its time. It will inevitably arrive. A time will come when the new Lithuania will decide!
Up to then – either in the majority or the minority, there are many tasks that distract from the sadness. Hence onto work!
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