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Vilnius suburbs
© DELFI

The representatives of eight political parties are uniting their forces in Vilnius region in the run-up to next year's municipal elections. This is done in the hopes of forming real competition to the long-term ruler of the region, the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Union (LLRA-KŠS), lzinios.lt writes.

The Conservatives, "Farmers", two liberal parties, Social Democrats, Social Labourites, Labourites and Order and Justice party have released a statement for the residents of Vilnius region, in which among other things, they urged to declare their place of residence in the municipality, so that they could vote in the municipal elections.

"We urge all the region's residents to be active home owners. We can create a life in Vilnius region that we all dreamed of when we came to live here!" the statement says.

According to political scientists, it is possible to defeat the region's undisputed ruler LLRA-KŠS, especially if the other parties manage to unite their forces.

Newcomers ignored

According to the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) Vilnius region branch head Gediminas Kazėnas, this was the first time where the parties made such a united joint statement, urging the residents of Vilnius region to actively participate in resolving their problems, rather than remaining passive observers.

"This is not an ethnic, but a civic matter. We do not say that the Poles do not need kindergartens, we say that Lithuanians lack schools. We are seeking to urge the residents, that if they wish to change the situation in Vilnius region, they must participate themselves. The people must realise that if they do not vote, nothing will improve – kindergartens and schools will not appear, roads and lighting will not be repaired and so on," G. Kazėnas told Lietuvos Žinios.

According to him, in recent years, many new residents have settled around Vilnius in recent years, but many of them have declared their place of residence in the capital, not Vilnius region where they actually live. One of the reasons for this is seen to be seeking to retain registration in the capital for children's kindergartens, which are not present near home.

The government of Vilnius region is, according to G. Kazėnas, doing its all "so that newcomers would be inconvenienced, would face difficulty because they are not its voters. "We are as if in an enchanted cycle. When people register in the city, they cannot vote in the region," the TS-LKD representative noted. He agreed that it would not be easy to compete with the LLRA-KŠS in the coming elections: on one hand – a sole ruling party, on the other – eight parties, whose votes are split. However, G. Kazėnas believes that by uniting their forces, change is possible. He himself has been chosen as the TS-LKD candidate for Vilnius region mayor.

Youth activity increasing

Lithuanian Social Democrat Party (LSDP) Vilnius region branch chairman and region council member Robertas Duchnevičius believes that the parties have found common ground because they want the welfare of the region's people to improve. However, the statement is primarily intended for newcomers, who are truly faced with numerous problems.

He also believes it is possible to defeat the LLRA-KŠS. "We see increasing youth interest in the elections. Young families with children are very active in the communities," R. Duchnevičius said. According to him, the views of some in the LLRA-KŠS electorate are also changing. "Remember the previous municipal elections – only the increased number of residents in the region led to the party receiving further mandates. However, compared to the 2011 elections, it has lost several thousand votes. I believe that the LLRA-KŠS is also feeling this, the LSDP candidate to Vilnius region mayor said.

The politician explained he is actively interacting with residents and can see all the problems. "Of course, I cannot say that everything is bad, that is not the case. But there are things that we can only resolve united. However, the region's rulers are uninclined to discuss. I can see that democratic methods would benefit everyone," he noted.

Mission possible

Vilnius Univeristy Institute of International Relations and Political science lecturer Marijuš Antonovič believes that the fact that during the last Seimas elections, a second round was held in the Nemenčinė electoral district is proof that the positions of the LLRA-KŠS in Vilnius region are not unassailable. According to him, if the opposition parties manage to back a single candidate in the mayoral election or at least reduce the number of candidates, formed join electoral rolls, it would be possible to overcome the dominant party.

According to M. Antonovič, the LSDP has the best chances to win in the region's elections because it has been very active there. In his opinion, changes, competition and pluralism would serve to boost the region's development. "I can see that the current ruling majority is somewhat ignoring the wishes and interests of local Lithuanians, creates a sort of artificial tension," the political scientist said. According to him, most of the residents of Vilnius region, especially the poles believe along these lines: "Who to vote for if not the LLRA-KŠS, if Lithuanians are elected, they may close down Polish schools and such." Thus the municipal elections, even if they do not unseat the LLRA-KŠS candidate for mayor, could create premises to enlarge the opposition group in the region's council.

No lack of problems

The aforementioned statement reminds that Vilnius region is one of the four municipalities in the country, where the number of residents is increasing. "This fact should make both politicians and officials happy and motivate them to strive for there to be ever more newcomers. For this to happen, it is crucial to form conditions – improve transport infrastructure, create an effective network of schools and kindergartens. Unfortunately, the current regional government cares little about this," the statement says.

Its authors highlight the lack of schools and kindergartens where teaching is done in Lithuanian as one of the major problems. Apparently, the regional government is ignoring parents' requests to establish such groups. As such, the only possibility to influence the decisions of the mayor's office is to declare one's place of residence in the region and participate in the municipal elections.