- October 11, 2012
Radczenko: We choose the lesser evil?
All voters around the world are divided into two groups: the fanatical followers of an option, the idea, trend, leader, party or movement, who are always and everywhere in their choices are guided by the view that “if Kali steal a cow – it’s good, if Kali is stolen a cow, it’s bad”, and those who choose to vote for the lesser evil.
Lithuania has another group along these two main ones – people voting “for fun”, “for laugh”. It is a group of frustrated people, believing in nothing, hating the current system and having no idea or hope for change; every four years, for over 12 years, this group brings to power new political clowns and buffoons. And, when after another election it seems that the supply of political idiots, individuals convicted for financial, sexual or corruption crimes, “saviors of the nation” and former KGB reservists have been completely exhausted, before each new election another “anti-system” party arrives and the former “anti-system” ones unexpectedly become the “traditional” political force.
This year we have an abundance of (often conflicted) new parties: “The Way of Courage” (“Drąsos Kelias”), “The List of Lithuania” (“Lietuvos sąrašas”), “The Lithuanian People’s Party” (“Lietuvos žmonių partija”), “Democratic Labour and Unity Party” (“Demokratinė darbo ir vienybės partija”), “The Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters” (“Lietuvos laisvės kovos sąjūdis”) among others. So, maybe the next parliament will be the first parliament with no significant representation of “saviors”. Especially when the “traditional” parties wink conspiratorially to the “anti-system” electorate.
According to the latest surveys, four parties are most likely to win the parliamentary elections – the Social Democrats, the Labour Party, the Conservatives and the Order and Justice party. From three to six parties has a chance to cross the electoral threshold: the Way of Courage, the Liberal Movement, the Union of Liberal and Center, the “YES” Union, the Lithuanian Peasants and Greens Union and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania. Every of these parties has a chance to jump into the next parliamentary term of office, especially considering the totally embarrassing level of the pre-electoral campaign of the main players.
The campaign in 2008 was announced the most boring in the history of the Lithuanian parliamentary system. The ban on political advertising on television was blamed for this. The ban was abolished, but the quality of the electoral campaign isn’t any better. We can see boredom and, which is worse, the lack of ideas on the TV screen, in newspapers and web portals. It seems that none of the mainstream parties has any fresh ideas. Apparently, each of them have already come to terms with their place after the elections: the Social Democrats are convinced that they will win, the Conservatives – that they will go into opposition, the Labour Party – that they will be in the ruling coalition no matter who will create it with whom. In this situation, every party understands that a careless step can be harmful, so they try to play safely (e.g. by plagiarizing “Žmonės” – a tabloid – by the Conservatives and issuing a free illustrated magazine by the leaders of the Homeland Union, telling about everything, from watering flowers to cooking porridge, but not about politics).
The pre-electoral campaign of the main opponents – the Social Democrats and Conservatives – is lowered to repeating the mantras: the leader of the left wing, Algirdas Butkevičius, attacks the government of Kubilius instead of presenting electoral program; Andrius Kubilius praises his achievements forgetting about the number of failures, which is not smaller. There is neither finesse nor imagination in the slogans of the parties. The man is the most important; we know how; we achieved a lot together – it’s old and more discouraging than encouraging to vote. Virtually all the parties present the same promises impossible to be fulfilled. Only numbers differ in various political programs: some promise the minimum wage of 1,509 litas, others – 1200 litas of 1800 litas, even though even the increase of 1000 litas imposes the cost of additional 200 million of litas to the budget. There are also all sorts of promises of concessions, subsidies, benefits and investments. If the minimum wage increased today from 850 to 1500 litas, the unemployment in Lithuania would immediately double (to 26% of the total population of working age), warns Gitanas Nauseda, an economist; at the same, the demand for the benefits for the unemployed would increase by another 390 million litas. Of course, politicians are not distressed by the warnings, as they aren’t going to fulfill their promises. Even the voters are not likely to take them seriously (however, it’s not sure, as in the past few years the sale of lottery tickets of all kinds has increased in Lithuania by 60%…). But do we have a moral right to complain that politicians cheat us, if we vote for them in such a situation?
The continuing lack of ideological orientation of the leaders of “traditional” parties is shown in the response to the question: “with whom would you never form a ruling coalition?” Even in 2003, after the victory of Rolandas Paksas in the presidential election, the leaders of conservatives and social democrats called for the creation of an “anti-fascist” front. Today, the Order and Justice is a possible ally both for the left and for the right wing. In 2004 the conservatives warned of the “Russian threat” and “Kremlin Trojan horse” embodied in the Labour Party of Wiktor Uspaskich. Today, Uspaskich is an ideal coalition for them. The supporters of Paksas and the followers of Uspaskich do not reject a possible coalition neither with the Social Democratic Party nor with the Homeland Union. Neringa Venckiene is the only leader of all parties who says that there’s no chance to create coalition with Social Democrats, Liberals, the Labour Party and Conservatives (or virtually anyone who has a real chance to be in the future in the ruling coalition). Probably, none of these parties would like to form a coalition with the Way of Courage. On the other hand, it’s not known whether Venckiene will be able to control the people who possibly enter the Seimas from her list. As we have seen before, the “anti-system” politicians are no longer “anti-systemic” after winning seats in the parliament, when they begin to migrate en masse to the parties that “hold power”.
Stable group of leaders of the pre-electoral race creates, of course, an opportunity for smaller political groups that are trying to fill gaps left by two major players. Sometimes, these attempts are quite ridiculous (e.g. if politicians convicted for corruption begin to explain how corruption should be fought), sometimes – convincingly. The Way of Courage skillfully uses the sympathy that the Lithuanian society has for its leader; the Liberal Movement aims at young voters and middle-class promising the legalization of civil partnerships and positioning itself as an opposition party, despite the fact that they co-created the current ruling coalition for nearly four years; the Lithuanian Peasants and Greens Union plays with anti-atomic moods of a large part of the Lithuanians; and, the EAPL, convinced that the Polish and Russian electorate won’t leave it anyway, consequently builds its new image of a nationwide party, uniting all the dissatisfied with the status quo…
Just in a few days we will go to the polls, and perhaps most of us will vote for the lesser evil. By putting a cross for one or another party, for this or that name, we should remember that in July 1932 many voters also chose the “lesser” evil during the elections to the Reichstag in Germany. The “lesser” evil at that time was the Nazi party… That’s why one shouldn’t listen to emotions and surveys, and should give one’s vote for the best and thoughtful ones. They can be found on either list, even in our political desert.
Worse than that, we treat democracy instrumentally – every four years we vote for who is more beautiful or who promises more, and everything will fix itself somehow. Nothing could be farther form the truth. Democracy, as it’s not just the art of choosing the right political option, is also the art of holding the chosen politicians under control. If we give up this control for four years, and then mechanically replace one team with another during the next elections, there’s no chance for a change. So, no matter whom you choose on October 14, the point is: we should control our representatives after the election.
Tłumaczenie Ewelina Zarembska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Ewelina Zarembska the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.