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2020.10.30 08:00

LRT English Newsletter: Lithuanian election and its discontents

Justinas Šuliokas, LRT.lt2020.10.30 08:00

LRT English Newsletter – October 30, 2020

Sunday’s vote sealed the victory for Lithuania’s conservative TS-LKD party and now its PM-presumptive, Ingrida Šimonytė, is talking coalition with two liberal partners. While an education revamp, tax cuts and minority rights are on the table, what we already know about the would-be government is that it is definitely going to include more women.

Šimonytė has indicated she will preside over a substantial, though not sudden, change of course – except in foreign policy – and take personal charge of the country’s coronavirus effort.

Lithuania’s president, too, has reminded of his ‘welfare state’ slogan, saying he’ll be looking for minister nominees who share his vision.

LESS LUCKY

The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (LLRA-KŠS) party – which is in the current ruling coalition, but only won three seats in the next Seimas – has disputed the election results, saying its defeat was down to a hostile campaign funded by none other than George Soros. Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the current ruling LVŽS party, has backed the calls to have the vote reexamined.

Meanwhile the leader of the Social Democratic Party (LSDP) has reason to be resentful – he lost the race in his single-member district by only a handful of votes. The Central Electoral Commission announced on election night a tie between him and his conservative rival, but a recount indicated he lost by five votes. A second recount is due on Friday.

And Lithuania’s energetic Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius, who has failed to get elected to parliament, has said he has yet to receive any job offers.

MASKS ARE BACK

Lithuania has been reporting whopping rises in coronavirus infections this week, missing the 1,000-mark by merely fifty cases on Thursday. Vilnius and the other main cities have been red-zoned and put under local quarantine. Wearing facemasks in public – including on the street – is once again mandatory (and Vilnius Municipality posted a cheeky reminder of how to do it properly), while restrictions have been brought on sporting events and public gatherings.

At the same time, coming to Lithuania from abroad was made somewhat simpler as the government adopted the common EU guidelines for designating coronavirus-affected countries.

Meanwhile the Lithuania’s front-line hospitals warn that they are fast running out of beds for coronavirus patients and will soon need backup. Public health officials, who are struggling to track and trace all the new infections, say they are under-resourced – and whenever they asked for more funding in the past, they were told to “optimise”.

HOLY FATHER

Pope Francis sent some shockwaves across Christendom when he expressed support for same-sex partnerships last week. The response in Lithuania – which is among the few remaining EU countries that have resisted passing any legal recognition of same-sex relationships – has been somewhat muted. The pope’s statement “does not change the Church's teachings”, was a short comment from the Lithuanian Catholic hierarchy.

NO WHITE CHRISTMAS?

Climate scientists have bad news for those looking forward to a white winter. Just like last year, Lithuania may be left snowless again.

CABLES ATTACHED

Despite Lithuania's vehement opposition to the Belarusian nuclear plant in Astravyets, the country's state-controlled companies have been contracting the same suppliers that have equipped the plant across the border with electric cables. The companies claim they were following public procurement laws, while security experts say it’s a short-sighted approach. LRT Investigation team reports.

EDITORS’ PICKS

– Lithuanians willing to get rid of their old polluting cars have been able to benefit from government grants to buy more environmentally friendly substitutes. The 8-million-euro programme has been nearly used up to buy electric scooters and bikes.

– Social distancing and lockdowns have taken a huge, if often unacknowledged, mental toll on Lithuania’s youth, a survey has found.

– As hostilities resumed between Azeris and Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, several Lithuanian diplomacy veterans recall how they tried to bring the warring sides to the negotiating table back in 1990. Despite sharing tea, jokes, and reaching an early breakthrough, the effort ultimately failed.

– To flee the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, some Lithuanians had to employ drastic measures – like hijacking a civilian airliner or walking on foot across thousands of kilometres.

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