- August 31, 2012
“Poles are ready to govern”
Interview with a Leader of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, Member of the European Parliament, Waldemar Tomaszewski
Russian Alliance from Klaipėda and Lithuanian People’s Party are standing for election to parliament in October under the name of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (AWPL; Polish: Akcja Wyborcza Polaków na Litwie). Why such an idea?
This decision may come as a surprise to political scientists and journalists but it is not unusual for us. The willingness of two other Lithuanian parties to act under the name of AWPL is the result of our activity up to now. Our party has a good reputation. We have proved ourselves to be an honest and reliable party through all those years. Previously, we had cooperated and created common lists with national minorities, namely Belorussian, Russian, Tartar, Ukrainian and others. Today, a nationwide party, Lithuanian People’s Party, is interested in cooperation with us. I also want to point out that this initiative was their idea and we accepted it in order to participate together in the election. And what is important, we are standing for election under the name of AWPL. In my opinion, the fact that under the name of AWPL are almost all national minorities and nationwide Lithuanian parties does us credit. It is a new quality of our group. Although AWPL is considered a regional party, it has become – we can call it – a nationwide party because in the upcoming elections we are present not only in the Vilnius constituency, but also in Klaipėda, Druskininkai, Kaunas, Zarasai.
Are you not afraid that AWPL will soon cease to be associated with Poles?
– I think we will be associated with all citizens of Lithuania who accept our programme. And it is aimed not only at one national minority, but also at all citizens because it is to serve the needs of the whole country. We have a few strong points in our economy and social protection programme as well as interesting ideas to improve the country’s administration. We have a good programme and good people who will carry it out. What is the most important is that our people have already had some experience in government, mainly in local government, and they have proved themselves to be honest and hard-working. Our candidates have never been associated with any corruption scandals. All those good qualities are appreciated by our present coalition parties that want to stand for parliament from our lists, as well as more and more citizens. We want to prove that all nationalities from one country can cooperate and achieve something for the sake of the country and all its citizens.
You mentioned the party’s new proposals, mainly economic proposals. Does it mean you are not interested in, for example our compatriots from Lithuania’s demands concerning education?
– No, quite the contrary! However, we are concentrating not only on the problems of Poles in Lithuania, but also on the problems concerning other national minorities and every citizen. Thanks to that we want to help Polish minority more effectively as well as other citizens of Lithuania. And it is true that more than ever we are going to focus on economic issues but at the same time we don’t forget about social protection and respect for Christian values which other parties tend to forget.
What about education?
– We don’t forget about education. After all, the last rally, attended by several thousand people marching across the streets of Vilnius, was the biggest protest action of the year. Neither trade unions nor other parties weren’t able to organize a similarly large event. And it is worth noting that the representatives of other Lithuanian trade unions joined our action and together we protected the educational system of Lithuania. The discriminatory Law on Education is criticised not only by Polish people from Lithuania but also, by trade unions of teachers which point out that the execution of the Law will lead to, among other things, the liquidation of small schools. Education is extremely important for us because the higher level of education among citizens is connected with better economy. Therefore, our efforts to improve the education system will be continued. We will also try to get the best election result in order to have even a dozen or so members. Then, we will be able to apply for the office of the Minister of Education.
Is AWPL going to apply mainly for the Ministries of Education and Economy in the new government?
– Yes. But to be honest, we are willing to take the Ministries of Agriculture and Transport as well. Because in these sectors there are the most urgent problems we would like to solve.
What result do you expect?
– Taking the recent local elections in which we gained nearly 7% on the national level into consideration, I think we have to at least repeat this result. We count not only on the support of national minorities. It is true that the electoral system in Lithuania is quite complicated – because half of the parliament is elected in single member constituencies (not like in Poland) and the other half nationwide – but if we get 7-8% of votes from national list, it will give us at least 7-8 seats in the parliament. Plus single member constituencies – until now we have had three representatives in those constituencies, so today we think we can fight for different regions, probably 4-6 constituencies. In such a configuration a dozen or so members in the 141-seat Parliament is a quite realistic expectation and we are working on it. However, we are fully aware that everything depends on the Providence. Plans are only plans.
Especially after the changes of the constituencies’ boundaries in Vilnius Region, AWPL will will find much more difficulty in crossing the election threshold.
– Unfortunately, it is true that all those administrative actions put us at disadvantage. It is sad but they fight against us using such methods. However, we are determined and optimistic. In spite of all those obstacles, I believe we will cope with them and maintain or even increase our holding in the Parliament.
Tłumaczenie Karolina Rolka w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Karolina Rolka within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.