Which party will dominate the government and who will be Lithuania's next prime minister will depend on the exact number of seats each party will get and the deals they will manage to strike with one another, according to VZ.lt.
Ten candidates per seat
A little over 1,400 party and independent candidates are running for 141 seats in the Lithuanian parliament.
Zenonas Vaigauskas, the chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, specifies that 16 political parties have registered 1,440 candidates in their lists.
"This is how many candidates there will be vying for the 70 seats that are distributed to parties that cross the 5% threshold according to proportional representation. In single-member constituencies, the parties have put forward 684 candidates. The 71 seats will be given to candidates who will win in each of the constituency," Vaigauskas explains.
Virtually all party candidates in single-member constituencies are also running for proportional represenation seats with the lists, so the total nunber of candidates is a little over 1,400, Vaigauskas says.
About 30 independent candidates have also expressed interest in running for parliament, but they can only compete in single-member constituencies.
"We are now checking the documents and independent candidates are also collecting signatures of their supporters. The procedures will conclude by the end of August and, in early September, the Central Electoral Commission will confirm final lists of candidates both in the multi-member constituency and the single-seat districts. Very few candidates usually get eliminated during these procedures, just one or two," Vaigauskas says.
In the 2012 elections, the total number of candidates was almost 1,900, representing 18 parties.
Hypothetical make-up of the next parliament
Political analysts interviewed by VZ.lt say there are many factors that could potentially change voters' inclinations before hitting the polls in October, ranging from political corruption scandals, like the ones that have already shaken the political landscape, to the fate of the new Labour Code that was vetoed by the president.
VZ.lt has proposed the following forecast for the make-up of the Seimas after the elections on October 9 and 23:
The Social Democratic Party - 35 seats
The Homeland Union (conservatives) - 31
The Peasant and Greens Union - 26
The Liberal Movement - 13
The Labour Party - 12
Order and Justice - 9
The Electoral Action of Poles - 3
Other - 12
Political analysts cautiously agree with such an estimate, based on opinion polls in mid-August, but warn that "things can change before the elections".
"What we see in the political field today may not be how it will look come October. We are in a sort of a permanent political stability crisis - even with weeks left until the polls, we cannot predict the results, because they depend not on the party's platforms, visions or ideas, but not endless and unpredictable corruption scandals," says Rima Urbonaitė of Mykolas Romeris University.
Algis Krupavičius, dean of the Social Science Faculty of Vytautas Magnus University, says that three parties could potentially be the winners of the elections: the social democrats, the conservatives (Homeland Union), and the peasant-greens.
"The social democrats' poll numbers have been consistently declining lately, whereas those of the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats and the Peasant and Greens Union are on a steady rise. I suppose that the peasant-greens still hold potential to increase their popularity, probably at the expense of the social democrats.
"It is possible, therefore, that by October the numbers of the social democrats, the peasant-greens and the conservatives will have virtually converged.
"The same applies to single-member constituencies - there's palpable disappointment with the big parties, so the protest votes can go to the peasant-greens or independent candidates. The social democrats can be the ones to bleed most," Krupavičius says.
Still, the social democrats stand to win more seats than any other party, he adds. "But this is not an absolute certainty. In general, my forecast would be the following: the final distribution of seats can be near-equal, about 30 each for the social democrats, the peasant-greens and the conservatives. The remaining 50-60 seats will be divided up among the Labour Party, the Order and Justice party, the Liberal Movement as well as the Electoral Action of Poles, Naglis Puteikis' coalition, perhaps the Freedom Union of Artūras Zuokas, other smaller parties, at least several independents."
The results of the "smaller" parties could be the deciding factor in government formation.
"We can end up with a very fragmented parliament where building a lasting coalition might prove a challenge. At any rate, it will consist of at least three different parties," Krupavičius says.
Many analysts agree that the newcomer Peasant and Greens Union will be the king maker. "Their position is flexible enough - they will go with whatever fits them both ideologically and numerically," Urbonaitė says.
On the other hand, the party's ideological flexibility, as well as relative inexperience in parliamentary politics, could be its undoing.
"We can see many different views, people of various ideologies, even though they present themselves as professionals. There will probably be a fall-out soon enough about how to solve issues - and this will break the party apart," says Vincentas Vobolevičius of ISM University of Management and Economics.
Who is the next prime minister?
Summarizing the predictions that can be made today, analysts draw four probable combinations in the would-be ruling coalition:
(i) the social democrats with the peasant-greens and the liberals;
(ii) the conservatives with the peasant-greens and the liberals;
(iii) the current combination of the social democrats with the Labour Party and Order and Justice;
(iv) or even the "rainbow" coalition of the social democrats and the conservatives, with the possible addition of the liberals or the peasant-greens.
The most likely candidates to serve as the next prime minister include the incumbent social democrat Algirdas Butkevičius, conservatives Gabrielius Landsbergis, Andrius Kubilius and Ingrida Šimonytė, or the peasant-greens representatives Saulius Skvernelis or Bronis Ropė.
When it comes to the social democrats, however, analysts note that the party could have a change of leadership after the elections. Among the likely successors of Butkevičius - in the party as well as in the government - are Finance Minister Rasa Budbergytė, Juozas Bernatonis or someone else.
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