• February 24, 2015
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Zapolski: Lithuanian political parties have problems with organizing Polish votes

The national minorities in Vilnius constitute almost 30% of its residents. Logically, the candidates would have to bitterly fight for these votes. During this year’s political campaign, the issues concerning national minorities were raised more frequently by the candidates; however, most of them expressed only general remarks.

The Polish Debate Club organized three meetings with the candidates for the mayor of Vilnius, which were attended by Artūras Zuokas, Gintautas Paluckas, Waldemar Tomaszewski, Remigijus Šimašius and Mykolas Majauskas. As the chairman of the club Artur Zapolski said during the talk with zw.lt, all the candidates were willing to take part in the discussions. A part of them even sought the meeting with the members of the Polish minority themselves.

“Concluding all three meeting-discussions with the candidates for this position, one should admit that there is a problem with organizing votes of the national minorities. Despite the significant proportion of the national minorities in comparison with the total number of residents of Vilnius and – as it would seem – the evident significance of these votes, the candidates were rather passive, mainly leaving the Polish votes of the Electoral Action” – summed up the meeting Zapolski

Vilnius, the multinational city

All the candidates pointed out that the local government is not the place where the Polish postulates can be resolved. They also said they that they do not divide the electorate according to their nationalities. However, the issues concerning national minorities were also raised, and not only by Tomaszewski, who the so-called “Polish postulates” has got written into the party’s program.

“Not only from textbooks, but also from my own experience I know that Vilnius is a multinational city. Its spirit and aura have been created by the members of different nationalities” – said the current mayor of Vilnius Zuokas during the meeting. The politician pointed out that we all are the residents of the capital, hence it is easy to communicate with each other. Zuokas pointed out that the cooperation with the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, which he is in the coalition with in the local government, has been good. According to him, the city’s authorities pay the special attention to the education of the national minorities. The mayor informed the attendants that he managed to preserve the Joachim Lelewel High School in Vilnius from liquidation. “Once I found out from the members of the Polish community about the history of the school and its significance for the Polish people, and about the number of great Poles who studied there, I decided to preserve this institution. Because, would we want the school in which Jonas Basanavičius studied be closed? Certainly not” – boasted the Vilnian politician.

Gintautas Paluckas also boasted about the cooperation with the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania. “In the years 2007-2009, when I was the director of the administration of the local government, our cooperation was very good” – stated the social democrat. Paluckas pointed out that he understands the concern of the Polish minority in the case of education. That is why in some cases one should make a political decision to increase the spending on an incomplete school at the expense of the other schools.

The mass in the Polish language in the cathedral

Remigijus Šimašius, while talking about the issues concerning national minorities, sounded more like a politician of the whole nation rather than the candidate for the mayor of the city. “One should do something that the president of Poland could without resistance lay flowers at the monument to the Lithuanian partisans, and the president of Lithuania would lay flowers at the monument to the soldiers of the Home Army” – explained Šimašius what goal one must pursue. As a common citizen and a Catholic, he asked the archbishop if it was possible to say a Holy Mass in the Polish language in the cathedral. The candidate from the liberal party joined the “Żółw” (“Turtle”) action as well.

The candidate from the conservative party Mykolas Majauskas, who initiated the “Lithuania loves Poland” action before, was the least precise. “Unfortunately, it is – let me use the concept coined by Richard Nixon – the “silent majority”, and the Polish-Lithuanian relations are dominated by the loud and radical minority. I have worked in Poland, England and Australia, and in all these places I have met Polish people; I lived in one room with a Pole for some time, and our relations were always great” – said the conservative.

The lack of ideas?

Despite seeing some potential, which can be reached through the votes of national minorities, the nationwide parties still do not know how to exploit it. “Please, pay attention, for instance, to the “good cooperation” with the Electoral Action declared by Artūras Zuokaa and Gintautas Paluckas. Even Mykolas Majauskas stated that in certain issues the beforementioned party is close to him, concerning the world view. In each and every case – including Remigijus Šimašius, who as the only one “can hardly imagine a coalition with the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – clearly there is no vision of “attracting” the votes of the Polish people, even of those who do not vote for the Action. One can only guess whether it is for fear of losing the part of the electorate, because of the lack of courage, or simply the lack of ideas” – summed up Zapolski.

Translated by Tomasz Szatkowski within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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