- October 14, 2012
Good turnout, active Vilnius region
Halfway through the parliamentary elections – on Sunday at two p.m. – the turnout was slightly higher than before and amounted to 25.84 percent of voters eligible to vote. Four years ago in the first half of the day to the polls went one percent less voters – 24.92 percent. Traditionally, the most active districts are those inhabited by Poles. In Vilnius-Soleczniki district voted already 29.44 percent (in 2008 – 27.24 percent), in Vilnius-Szyrwinty – 28.06 percent (in 2008 – 26.94 percent) of the voters. Much more active this year were also voters in the early voting – at the opening of the polling stations this morning the turnout amounted to 5.51 percent whereas in 2008 only to 3.99 percent. In the polling stations about noon long queues were formed, the voters complained about the ill-structured voting procedure.
The voters are more active than previously undoubtedly because weather is favourable to them – the sun bursts through the clouds every now and then and it is warm. The Lithuanian media report that people queue in many polling stations and have to wait even up to an hour to cast a vote which gives rise to their dissatisfaction, frequent are complaints about the work of the particular election committees. The chairman of the Lithuanian Central Election Committee admits that some of the election districts are too big and should be made smaller. ”When the turnout was low it was not a problem but when the activity of the voters grows at certain moments people have to queue”, admits the chief of the Central Election Committee. In some districts are even about 5 thousand voters on the lists while the real, efficient capacity of a district allows approximately 2 thousand voters. However, the districts have been rather consolidated recently – in comparison to the previous elections the number of the districts was slightly reduced – from 2034 (in 2008) to 2017 (in 2012).
A lot of emotions evokes also the referendum on construction of a new nuclear power plant. The voters complain that in some committees pressure is exerted to obligatorily cast a vote also in the referendum. In other committees its members nearly suggest that the voters do not have to take part in it. But according to many observers the very referendum may be one of the most important reasons for the increased attendance because it still raises a great deal of heated debate among the politicians as well society. Let us remind you, though that previously, in 2008 also at the opportunity of the parliamentary elections took place a referendum regarding the extension of the nuclear power station’s operation (not shuting it down) in Wisaginia. Almost 90 percent of the participants declared themselves in favour of its further functioning (despite EU’s Treaty of Accession which obliged Lithuania to close down the power station). However, it was of little importance because the referendum turned out to be invalid. 48.43 percent of voters took part in it but according to the Lithuanian legislation the consultative referendum is valid only if at least half of the citizens eligible to vote take part in it.
However, the Lithuanian voters’s habits have not changed drastically apart from the obvious, almost 40 percent growth in popularity of the early voting. Still not many people start the election Sunday with doing their civic duty – till 10 a.m. today voted only 5.35 percent of voters (in 2008 – 5.02 percent). Almost a half of the voters go to the polls about noon – till 2 p.m. voted every fourth eligible to vote (today – 25.84 percent, in 2008 – 24.92 percent). The general turnout in the parliamentary elections in Lithuania does not exceed 50 percent – in 2008 the attendance amounted to 48.6 percent, in 2004 only to 46 percent. The latest parliamentary elections with the record turnout took place in 2000 – to the polls went then 58.63 percent of the voters! Four years before, in 1996 the attendance amounted to 52.92 percent.
Also the attitude of the Vilnius region’s inhabitants, most of which are Poles, has undergone a great change. In the 90s they used to be distinguished by their passivity, today they belong to the most active voters. The majority of areas densely inhabited by Poles is divided into 4 constituencies: the Vilnius-Soleczniki (south-east Vilnius region, clear predominance, a Polish candidate traditionally wins a mandate in the first round), Vilnius-Szyrwinty (north-west borderlands, recently depleted to the detriment of Poles but the mandate usually falls to a Pole in the second round), Vilnius-Troki (west borderland, a difficult area), Orany-Ejszyszki (south-west borderlands, a Polish candidate regularly wins to the second round but has not ever won a mandate). Also Nowa Wilejka, a multinacional east fringe of Vilnius may be counted among ”Polish” districts.
A change in the attitude is clearly reflected by the comparison of these regions voters’s activity in parliamentary elections in 1996 and 2008. At the turn of the second millennium the Vilnius region was a leader ”from the back” : ”Polish” districts took (among 70 constituencies) four out of five last places! In one of the Kłajpeda regions (with lot of Russians!) the turnout reached 58 percent, in Kowno region even 59 percent , in Vilnius-Soleczniki district only 31.12 percent, in Vilnius-Troki 32.44 percent, in Vilnius-Szyrwinty 36.18 percent, in Nowa Wilejka 37.54 percent… But already after three tenures the situation has changed – against the overall increase of apathy (or maybe emigration?) of the residents of Lithuania the Vilnius region has become self-confident and started to feel like a master in their own house. In the council elections the ”Polish” districts were in the forefront of those most active ones, they even managed to get near to this forefront in the parliamentary elections. In 2008 till 7 p.m. in Vilnius-Szyrwinty voted already 44.66 percent of voters (in 1996 – 36.18 percent), in Vilnius-Soleczniki 41.81 percent. Only Nowa Wilejka, once industrial Vilnius suburb, recorded a drop in number of voters, 35.9 percent in relation to 37.54 percent in 1996.
Also today the Vilnius region distinguished itself by high activity: at 10.00 a.m. the Vilnius-Soleczniki district was second as far as the morning turnout is concerned (8.09 percent, only Rosienie was better – 8.78 percent), at 2 p.m. fourth (29.44 percent), the Vilnius-Szyrwinty ninth (28.06 percent) whereas e.g. Nowa Wilejka has been constantly tenth from the back– 23.33 percent. The latest data on the activity of the voters are going to be gathered tomorrow at 7 p.m., the final turnout of the parliamentary elections 2012 will be known tomorrow.
Tłumaczenie Milena Jajkowska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Milena Jajkowska the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.