- October 12, 2012
Samsel: Breaking through hidden obstacles
The electoral threshold of 5% has been like a hidden obstacle for AWPL (Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania) for many years. So far, the party has not exceeded it but they were close to do that in the past. Maybe they will be successful this year. The latest polls done by the ELTA press show that, indeed, this is possible. Although in the polls, AWPL reaches only 4,7% of the votes which is below the threshold, we have to bear in mind that this party is usually underscored in nationwide polls.
This is not because of some political machinations, as some used to claim, but because of much less “mysterious” reasons. Nationwide polls are always done in the way that possibly equal number of respondents is evenly spread on the country’s territory. Of course, population density is taken into consideration as well. The problem is that a great majority of AWPL’s respondents live in a certain region of Lithuania.
No wonder that the party’s actual results in polls are a bit lowered.
The AWPL’s leader sees chances in the party’s new image. Its Polish character has been broadened to a nationwide one, though this cannot be explicitly assessed. This “change” is rather doubtful as it is impossible to modify the party’s image created for several years. So far, AWPL has been a Polish party in its ethnical and regional sense. Regardless of the changes which have been introduced, the facts and faces remained the same. I can understand that they have become open to the rest of the country in order to gain more voters. But I cannot understand the premise of the whole action. In my opinion it clearly shows that, as far as Polish traditional electorate is concerned, AWPL have achieved everything they could. There is nothing more to be done.
However, I believe that there is still room for some improvement. They can do more by choosing to be open. They have managed to reach the electorate of one of the Russian parties which as usual supports AWPL. They have opened to the Prunskas’s Lithuanian party, although with a little support. Then, they could have tried harder, not just superficially, to gain the support of the rest of the Polish electorate not voting for AWPL. Perhaps the party leaders have a deeper insight into the situation and they have decided that the game is not worth the candle. It will turn out soon. However, there is no denying that Tomaszewski is very brave in his decisions because this year’s manoeuvre is risky.
Another premise that raises doubts is the increasing support for AWPL in the recent elections. This tendency does not necessarily have to repeat during every each election. Local elections are also taken into account. Unfortunately, local government election results do not always translate into results of parliamentary election. There are two years since the last local elections and voters might be dissatisfied with the way pre-election promises are kept. AWPL in Vilnius is in a coalition that is slightly controversial and risky for the party’s political image. In the Vilnius region, which is said to be the most prominent region of the party, the situation is a bit better. Although, according to the nationwide polls, the region is ranked among the least developed ones. More interestingly, there was a small political mistake made just before the elections: they have introduced fees for garbage disposal. And to make a cynical comment on that: They could get to the voters’ pockets after the elections and not before.
A chief asset of AWPL is the fact that none of its leaders has been involved in any corruption scandals or other unfavourable issues. Another advantage of the party, though independent from it, is the effort of some politicians and journalists who work hard for the party’s public support. Nobody likes to be perceived a stranger in their own country or to have their rights being limited just because his name is “Jan” instead of “Jonas”; or prefers to read a sign saying “Bujwidze” in a town he has known by this name for whole his life. Obviously, such people are forced into AWPL’s hands even though they could have had hundreds of charges against the party. AWPL is the only one that includes in its programme problems such as original Polish spelling. However, they seem to neglect that as they are busy with elections-related activity. This may result in a decreasing support in the following elections – but no party would allow such situation. Yet another argument in favour of AWPL is that it has got good results when it comes to payments received from the citizens. But does that mean their electorate has become larger or rather they have motivated their regular voters?
I suppose that even the AWPL leaders do not know the answer especially because of an obstacle they have treated themselves to. They very often act blindly. They cannot afford private public opinion research. They treat all the existing Polish media as the main source of information and sadly – the only one. The advantage of such arrangement is that they can use those media to convey their ideas. But in reality the party deprives itself of a real public survey. That could have helped them decide on any changes they should introduce.
We will soon find out which of those factors is predominant and what results AWPL will get in the elections. Personally, I would like it to exceed the electoral threshold and carry out the promised version of maximum – to form a government coalition and take up four ministries. That would allow them verify whether they actually have adequate staff resources and skills to fulfill their promises in the governmental conditions.
The whole country would benefit from it. Excluding even the fact that democracy demands all ethnical and social groups to have their representatives in the government. More important is that all problems are solved in the government and not on the streets. Because the problems of Polish minority in Lithuania are real problems – not artificial as some politicians and journalists claim. Consequently, those issues require realistic actions. Everybody should independently make the decision about the party they vote for. But what really matters is that they vote at all.
Tłumaczenie Marta Dubiel w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Marta Dubiel the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.