Lithuania’s general election: close race between incumbents and conservatives

Lithuania is holding a parliamentary election on Sunday amid coronavirus pandemic.

With about 40 percent of the votes in the multi-member constituency (which distributes 70 seats in the 141-seat Seimas) counted, the results indicate a close race between the incumbent Farmers and Greens Union and the opposition conservatives of the Homeland Union.

Farmers and Greens Union (LVŽS) –  20.2%  (19 seats) Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) –  20.1%  (18 seats) Labour Party (DP) –  11.7%  (11 seats) Social Democrats (LSDP) –  10.4%  (10 seats) Freedom Party (LP) –  6.9%  (6 seats) Liberal Movement (LRLS) –  6.2%  (6 seats) Electoral Action of Poles (LLRA-KŠS) –  4.7%  (no seats) Social Democratic Labour Party (LSDDP) –  3.8%  (no seats)

A party must cross the 5-percent threshold in oder to win any seats in the multi-member constituency.

 Lower turnout 

The polls opened at 7:00 and closed at 20:00 local time (GMT 3).

The turnout was 47.6 percent, the Central Electoral Commission announced after the closing of polling stations, three points below what it was in the 2016 elections.

“Based on the latest data, 35.42 percent voted on the election day, 66.36 percent voted abroad, and together with the foreign votes, it would stand at 35.96 percent,” Laura Matjošaitytė, the chair of the Central Electoral Commission (VRK), told a press conference on Sunday.

Another 11.64 percent cast their ballots in early voting which was extended from the usual two days to four days.

 Counting votes will tale longer 

The results of Lithuanian parliamentary election may be announced somewhat later than usual due to a high number of early ballots, which need more time to count, Laura Matjošaitytė, the chair of the Central Electoral Commission (VRK), has said.

“We ask everyone to be patient, the results of the polls will not be available very quickly,” she said at a news conference on Sunday.

Some 11.64 percent of voters cast their ballots early in the current parliamentary election, whereas in 2016, early voting turnout was as low as 6.65 percent.

“We have high early voting turnout this time. Early ballots are put in envelopes and their counting takes a lot of time,” Matjošaitytė said.

Vote counting might also require more time than usual due to coronavirus safety precautions.

 Voting during pandemic 

Voters have been urged to wear personal protective equipment covering their nose and mouth, to bring their own pens and a personal ID document when arriving at the polling station.

One hundred and forty-one lawmakers are being elected to the Lithuanian Seimas for a four-year term. Seventy of them are elected from political parties’ candidate lists, and 71 in the single-member constituencies. Seventeen political parties have produced candidate lists for the election, with no coalitions established.

Voter lists confirmed by the Central Electoral Commission include 2,449,683 citizens with the right to vote.

Political parties will win seats in the multi-member constituency if they manage to collect at least 5 percent of votes from the total number of votes in the election.

The second round of voting in the Seimas election will take place on October 25. In each single-member constituency, two candidates who received the most votes in the first round will vie for seats in the run-off round.

The newly-elected Seimas usually hold its first sitting in mid-November.

 Longer queues 

First voters at the Miško polling station in the centre of Kaunas showed up right before the opening of polls at 7:00.

“I came to vote early so as to avoid a crowd of people. I urged all my family members to go together, tried to wake them up but our young ones are sleeping,” Marija Dainė, 72, who is in charge of public cultural establishments, told BNS.

Voters enter the polling station through one door and have to exit through another in a bid to reduce the risk of contact. Members of the constituency electoral commission warn people to come by one and avoid gathering in groups.

Commission members wear facemasks and gloves, disinfect surfaces once an hour and ventilate the premises on a more frequent basis.

“It is more inconvenient to people as they have to make a huge circle but such are the requirements,” Ginvilė Pilėnaitė, chair of the constituency’s electoral commission, told BNS.

This time, voters would have to queue longer than usual given that registration would take longer due to the social distancing requirement, she explained.

“I have been working for many years but this time the experience is different: we have premises and have to make adjustments to comply with the requirements and to make them safe for everyone, including staff and voters,” she added.

Approximately 30 people came to vote at the Vytenio polling station in Vilnius within the first half an hour after the opening of polls despite rain.

“It is always the same – people who want to avoid queues rush in early in the morning,” Julija Ceglytė, the chair of the constituency electoral commission, told BNS.

The majority of voters had their own pens and wore facemasks. However, organizers are ready to offer disposable masks to those who do not have any means of protection to cover their nose and mouth.

 Voting in self-isolation 

As over 30,000 people are currently in self-quarantine due to the coronavirus, a number of voters have complained that they have not been able to vote.

The Central Electoral Commission has asked people who are not able to leave their homes to register before the election day. Commission employees were to visit people voting from home on Saturday and collect their ballots.

However, a number of people have complained that they did not receive a home call from electoral commissions.

Laura Matjošaitytė, the head of the Central Electoral Commission, said on Sunday that the commission was working to solve the problem.

“We are now analysing information and working out why this happened,” she told the Elta news agency, adding that the commission would do all it could to ensure people’s right to vote..

“The Central Electoral Commission will be looking for solutions in cases where voters had registered [to vote from home],” she said.

She noted that in some instances electoral commission members could not find voters at their home addresses.

The election observation NGO Baltosios Pirštinės (White Gloves) has urged voters who were not given the opportunity to vote from home to report it via email (pranesk@baltosiospirstines.lt).

LRT.LT

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