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2014.06.04 11:26

Social Democrats regroup after disappointing presidential and EP elections

DELFI|The Lithuania Tribune2014.06.04 11:26

The Social Democrats went into the European Parliament (EP) elections with high hopes – but ultimately suffered disappointing losses. The party’s deputy chairman, Gediminas Kirkilas, expressed bitter outrage at political pollsters for overestimating party’s likely voter share in the election at a press conference on Monday, reports DELFI.

 The Social Democrats went into the European Parliament (EP) elections with high hopes – but ultimately suffered disappointing losses. The party’s deputy chairman, Gediminas Kirkilas, expressed bitter outrage at political pollsters for overestimating party’s likely voter share in the election at a press conference on Monday, reports DELFI.

“Every election I end up more and more disappointed by our sociologists. Their predictions did not come to pass, even though in the West it is the norm for predictions to be off by only a few percentage points. Furthermore, the standards are very strict there – I have observed elections in England myself. Our political sociology companies would lose their licenses there,” Kirkilas said.

“Our sociologists are becoming a part of the election campaign, rather than being sociologists. They should actually observe the process and present some sort of data. Unfortunately, things are the way they are. I will return to the opinion that the responsibility for sociological research that gets published should be very clear, as is in most countries. In some states, companies are responsible even for weather forecasts if people are hit by storms that were not forecast. Such an individual could even take such a case to court in the United States of America,” added the politician.

The last opinion polls before the vote promised the Social Democrats significantly better results. According to Vilmorus data, the Social Democrat’s popularity was up to 21.5 percent in April. Spinter Tyrimai promised the party 27.5 percent of the votes. The reality, however, was far harsher – only 16.3 percent of the votes went to the Social Democrats on election day.

Weaknesses

In the post-election press conference, Social Democrat representatives looked saddened, but not crushed. Admitting that they had expected better results, the politicians named the factors that limited their electoral success: weakness in the big cities and President Dalia Grybauskaitė’s unofficial support of the Liberal and Conservative parties.

Social Democrat Chairman and Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius said unfounded criticisms negatively affected the party’s showing in both the presidential and EP elections.

Butkevičius noted the coalition parties including the Social Democrats, the Labour Party, Order and Justice Party, and Polish Electoral Action, essentially lost the election anyway. He congratulated the Liberal Movement and Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union who demonstrated mastery in the elections.

“I see the EP elections as satisfactory,” said the Prime Minister.

He admitted that the Social Democrat party’s weakness lies in the big cities that do not vote for the Left-oriented parties. The regions where the Social Democrats are popular face dwindling populations.

“There certainly have been mistakes, it has to be admitted as it is very clear. We will make conclusions from it,” added Butkevičius.

“As the Prime Minister mentioned, we certainly had somewhat different expectations for the EP elections – third or fourth place, but I also think that the weather contributed, that our electorate, which would normally come to support us, did not. One of our party’s greatest problems is the big cities and not just for the EP elections, but also the presidential election. As we all know, the turnouts were poorer there, which was decisive for the final results,” Zigmantas Balčytis, the Social Democrat presidential candidate, said in the press conference.

The head of the electoral headquarters, Juozas Bernatonis said he imagined different election results. “I did not imagine that the support of the President, Dalia Grybauskaitė, would have such an impact for the conservative and liberal lists. In reality, it is obvious that those who voted for the president usually voted for those lists as well. That is where the extra opposition votes come from,” said the politician.

When asked if it was not a mistake to set up electoral headquarters featuring candidates with differing interests, Bernatonis said that the party has a tradition to set it up with candidates and youth who can make decisions happen.

What will change in the coalition?

The Social Democrats reacted to Conservative leader Andrius Kubilius’s statements about the formation of a new coalition in the Seimas. “Looks like he hasn’t had enough sleep,” mused Bernatonis.

Butkevičius underscored that the elections were not to the Seimas, but to the European Parliament, hence this will have no impact on the coalition.

“The administration will continue to work stably and I do not believe the cabinet will change,” said the Prime Minister.

Candidacy to two posts – not a mistake

When asked about the massive funds spent in the elections by the Social Democrats, Butkevičius stated that money might not always be decisive.

Balčytis said that the Social Democrat’s goal was to ensure a second round of presidential elections. “Democracy as a whole benefitted from this,” claimed the politician.

He also added that Grybauskaitė used administrative resources for the election, which eased the way for her.

When asked why he came second, after Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, on the Social Democrat ballot in the EP elections, Balčytis said he had focused all of his attention on his presidential campaign. However, both Butkevičius and Balčytis still believe that his candidacy to two posts was a prudent move.

“I believe it was not a mistake,” said Butkevičius.

“Mister Balčytis thinks so too,” laughed Balčytis, adding that he did not participate in the political life of Lithuania much in the past five years due to work at the European Parliament, making the electoral campaign too short for him.

Balčytis also added that the state position (For implementing the Euro and against land sales to foreigners) was harmful to Social Democrat electoral efforts. “The others talked the opposite. And today we see the results. Even the Liberals who stay silent about important questions argued for the return of pensions.”