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2020.10.16 08:00

LRT English Newsletter: Counting your (election) chickens

Benas Gerdžiūnas, Justinas Šuliokas, LRT.lt2020.10.16 08:00

LRT English Newsletter – October 16, 2020

The conservative Homeland Union has celebrated victory in the first round of Lithuania’s parliamentary elections on October 11. However, the incumbent Farmers and Greens have been quick to point out that the second round, which is still more than a week away on October 25, may tip the balance in their favour.

What’s clear is that there will likely be either a centre-right or a centre-left coalition. The latter, some critics say, would not be a paragon of left-wing politics, though.

In any case, find the key takeaways from the elections here, and statements by the party leaders here.

To sum up:

– The third place was claimed by the resurgent Labour Party, headed by a controversial Lithuanian MEP, Viktor Uspaskich. The party, despite a large-scale corruption scandal and its leader’s short-lived exile in Russia, managed to claim 9.5 percent of the vote.

– A newly-founded Freedom Party, which based its electoral campaign on LGBT rights, education policy and cannabis legalisation, has taken a surprise fifth spot.

– Lithuanian MEP Valdemaras Tomaševski claimed that George Soros had funded a campaign against his party, the electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance (LLRA-KŠS). The Polish minority party failed to clear the 5-percent threshold despite being part of the outgoing ruling coalition.

– Lithuania’s fringe nationalist parties have also failed to clear the benchmark.

– A number of party leaders and political veterans, including Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius, have failed to secure a seat in the first round.

CORONA BACK WITH VENGEANCE

The second wave is picking up pace in Lithuania, as the country’s health officials have confirmed a harrowing 255 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday. The infections are spreading among people in their 20s who frequent bars and nightclubs in Vilnius, according to officials.

Meanwhile, Vilnius municipality is keen to point out that shutting down parts of the economy – as was done in spring – would be a “drastic” measure.

CORONA BUDGET

The Finance Ministry has presented the bill for the country’s 2021 budget to the parliament. Key points:

– Despite an increase in public spending due to the coronavirus crisis, this year's budget has not been revised.

– The minimum monthly wage should go up from 607 euros to 642 euros before tax and the monthly child benefit from 60 euros to 70 euros.

– The average old-age pension should increase by about seven percent next year, from 377 euros to 404 euros.

Defence budget should stay above the NATO’s 2-percent threshold at 1.17 billion euros

– The budget revenue will drop 1.3 percent next year to 11.385 billion euros. Meanwhile expenses are estimated to grow 21.2 percent to 15.49 billion euros.

– The state budget deficit is estimated at 4.105 billion euros (5 percent of GDP), up 3.3 times from this year (1.248 billion euros).

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects Lithuania’s GDP to contract the least in Europe, and projects growth from 2021 onward.

PLEASE DONATE BLOOD

We’re sharing this urgent appeal by the Lithuanian National Blood Centre. The stocks are dwindling, the corona safety measures are in place, so please head down to one of the centres operating in every major city in the country.

CHAMPION WHO DISAPPEARED

Once every few years, a story emerges worthy of the big screen. This one may be just it. An American-Lithuanian basketball champion, who helped bring the newly independent country up on its feet, is split from his family as the Second World War approaches. Desperate searches, deportations to Siberia, and a life-long pursuit to reunite a family ensues. Read the first part here.

THE ‘OTHER’ ELECTION

With Lithuania’s parliamentary elections in full swing, another one is raising tensions on both sides of the Atlantic – the presidential tug-of-war in the United States on November 3. In America, the Lithuanian community has also been divided along party lines.

WAR IN KARABAKH

While the war rages despite a tenuous ceasefire signed in Moscow, a film festival in the Russian capital has removed an Armenian film shot in Lithuania from its repertoire. Some have described the move as “censorship”.

Meanwhile, an Estonian MEP argues that the EU’s Eastern Partnership programme, which includes both Armenia and Azerbaijan, needs an update as the “two are fighting and killing each other” and Belarus is “using violence against its people”.

EDITOR’S PICKS:

– Berlin is closing a “remembrance gap” by dedicating a monument to the victims of Nazis in Eastern Europe, including the Baltic states.

– A probe in Lithuania’s social care homes has revealed shocking conditions. A tough read.

– From wiped out cod stocks to algae closing down beaches in Poland and Sweden – the Baltic Sea is in rough shape. Can it still be saved?

– Lithuania is due to roll-out its contact-tracing app. How will it work?

– Generation Lukashenko. Raised under repressions, young Belarusians idealise life in Vilnius, craving the perceived freedom of Europe denied to them by the regime at home. A long-read story with photos, here.

– Although the full launch has been delayed (again) to 2022, nuclear reactions have already begun at the Belarusian nuclear plant on the border with Lithuania.

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Written by Benas Gerdžiūnas
Edited by Justinas Šuliokas