- February 19, 2019
Vilnius region’s opposition: our coalition is not created for our wealth
Intimidation of members of election commissions, lack of Lithuanian kindergartens, local government pressure – these are the basic problems that Vilnius region faces.
On Monday (11th of February) in the information agency ELTA a press conference was held, organized by the opposition forces in the Vilnius Region Local Government. In the conference there took part: Artūras Želnys, Jonas Vasiliauskas, Gediminas Kazėnas of the centre-right politics Coalition (which consists of liberals, conservatives and nationalists) and Algis Šatas of the “Pokyčių pavasaris” Coalition (The Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union and The Social Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania).
“We would like to talk about the situation in the Vilnius region. Probably it is not a small surprise of our squad. Our ideologies are still different, but we are united by the political situation that we want to rectify. EAPL has been ruling there since the beginning of independence and that is why this region is so different from other capital regions in Europe. The current ruling party is not able to work for the benefit of all the inhabitants of the region and wants to remain in power at all costs”, said the conservative and mayor candidate of the centre-right politics Coalition Gediminas Kazėnas. As he added, “March elections may be highly questionable in terms of objectivity and transparency”. Kazėnas reminded that in the Vilnius region a very large number of votes in elections is submitted by mail and in his opinion this can be used by EAPL, and the opposition loses several councilmen.
A representative of the left-wing coalition, Algis Šatas, informed that local government authorities and representatives of EAPL-CFA intimidate and demotivate a number of representatives of election commission members. “Our representatives in the election commissions were in a very unpleasant situation. When they started working there, they were discouraged from doing so in all ways. Such incidents occurred in Rudamina, Nemėžis, Šums’k, Grigaičiai, Pakienie, Kalveliai, Juodšiliai, Reich and Karvys. People were lying that they had to use electronic banking, that they had to be able to use a computer, that they would not receive remuneration, no more than 20 euros (…). Often people are in committee for the first time and think that the president is almighty and can demand these things. People are astray, frightened and therefore they leave the committees” said Šatas. The councilman added that the relevant letter was sent to the Central Electoral Commission. Conservative Jonas Vasiliauskas stressed that the former head of the Central Electoral Commission Zenonas Vaigauskas had always rejected their complaints.
According to Vasiliauskas, one of the basic problems of the Vilnius region is education in Lithuanian. First of all, this applies to kindergartens. “On the one hand, the Vilnius region is an attractive region. New residents are coming here. In 2018 their number increased to 102 thousand, but the situation is still unchanged. People who live in the area need schools and kindergartens. And those (with Lithuanian as the language of instruction) are missing, which is why they have to declare their place of residence in Vilnius”, Vasiliauskas said. According to the conservative, the region is doing this especially because it is aware that these people will not vote for EAPL-CFA: “They do everything so that there are no new voters”. “We do not want to divide people into locals and visitors. It is very strange when there is no place for a Lithuanian in Lithuania” Kazėnas added.
Liberal Artūras Želnys pointed out that nepotism is growing in the region and the authorities try to bribe the inhabitants in various ways. The best example is the water compensation introduced in the new year. “For this purpose, 300,000 Euros were spent, and a new kindergarten could have been built” said the councilman. In addition, the authorities fill all the positions with their own people. For example, Zbigniew Jedziński’s brother replaced him on director’s position in Nemenčinės komunalininkas when Jedziński was elected to the Seimas. “The Vilnius region is unjustly forgotten. This applies both to authority and the media. It is the fifth largest local government in Lithuania in terms of population, even ahead of Panevėžys” added Želnys.
All participants of the conference pointed out that it makes no sense to fight EAPL-CFA alone, which is why two coalitions were formed: the centre-right and the centre-left coalition. “Such coalition is not created for wealth. (…) but it is worth forgetting about your own ambitions” – explained Kazėnas. Despite the difficulties, the opposition is of good cheer. According to Želnys, the opposition has a chance to win 14 mandates and Vasiliaskas counts on a second round and half of the mandates. Currently, the opposition in the Vilnius region council has 10 councilmen. The council has a total of 31 members.
It is true that not all parties joined both coalitions. The Social Democratic Party of Lithuania did not do this. Robert Duchniewicz, the head of the district branch of social democrats, did not participate in the conference either.
“ Participation in the elections in the region, where the whole administrative apparatus is in the hands of EAPL-CFA is difficult, but in the opinion of our branch, there is no time for complaining. People need change. We are conducting a constructive election campaign and plan to win the direct mayor elections and to have a strong team in the local government council” – He commented for zw.lt Duchniewicz.
Local government elections will take place on March 3.
Translated by Dominika Kownacka within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.