Books on Lithuania
Update No: 286 - (28/10/04)
Lithuanian politics is going the Latvian way. In Latvia parties that are barely
one year old invariably win the elections, as Einars Repse's New Way did last
time in 2002 and then fade away after becoming unpopular in power, invariably as
head of a coalition government.
Lithuania used to have a more consistent pattern with an alternation of Social
Democrat- and Conservative-led coalitions in power. On Oct 10th the Lithuanians
propelled Russian multimillionaire Victor Uspaskich and his populist Labour
Party, founded only a year ago, to victory in Lithuania's parliamentary
elections. Having won 28.46 per cent support in proportional voting, the Labour
Party is guaranteed at least 22 seats in the new Seimas (Lithuania's
parliament), though this number is expected to increase significantly after the
second round of voting in single-mandate districts.
Half of Lithuania's Parliament (70 seats) is selected on proportionate
party-basis and the other (71 seats) through single mandates.
Uspaskich, who made his fortune selling pickles and speculating on real estate,
triumphed over Chairman of the Liberal and Centre Union Arturas Zuokas in his
hometown of Kedainiai, setting a record voting support of 68 per cent. He
promised voters the Earth. Doubtless, they thought, if he can do it for himself,
he can do it for us.
Working for Lithuania, the Union of Social Democrats and Social Liberals who
make up the country's ruling coalition, finished second with 20.65 per cent of
the vote, according to the Central Election Committee. But the day belonged to
the Darbo Partija. In fact, the Labourites were so confident of victory
throughout the tally that many members paid more attention to the Social
Democrats' returns than their own.
But despite the victory, the Labourites, who had campaigned on a basket of
social promises that other politicians and analysts decried as demagogic,
extravagant and impossible, were given the cold-shoulder by the country's ruling
elite, including President Valdas Adamkus, who neglected to carry out protocol
and call with words of congratulations.
This caused no small amount of indignation, and Uspaskich, unwilling to restrain
himself, called Social Democrat leader and Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas to
congratulate the latter with his second-place finish. He also inquired later
that night as to why the president had failed to congratulate the Labour Party.
In addition, four other parties - the Homeland Union, the Liberal Democratic
Party, the Liberal and Centre Union, and the Union of Farmers and New Democracy
parties - managed to cross the 5 per cent barrier. The conservative Homeland
Union and the Liberal and Centre Union were particularly content with their
results, finishing third and fifth respectively. The Homeland Union garnered
14.74 per cent, or the equivalent of 11 mandates, while the Liberals mustered
9.18 per cent, or seven mandates.
"I should say that right-wing parties performed well, and considering voter
turnout, which was a record low, the election results achieved by right wing
forces, in my opinion, are good indeed," Liberal leader and Vilnius Mayor
Arturas Zuokas said in a press conference on Oct 11th.
Impeached President Rolandas Paksas' party, the Liberal Democrats, finished
fourth with 11.42 per cent of the vote.
Merely 36.71 per cent of Lithuania's eligible voters cast their ballots on
election day, another 7.6 per cent voted by post. Falling from 58.6 per cent in
the last parliamentary election, the record-low turnout was seen as voters'
expression of disgust with Lithuanian politics, marred this year by a
presidential impeachment and parliamentary corruption scandals.
Even the president could not conceal his alarm at the low level of voter
activity. "I am sorry that a big part of the electorate did not avail the
right to elect a parliament that would be entrusted with the future of
Lithuania. Although there are moments of disappointment in the lives of most
people, this should not overshadow responsibility to the state," Adamkus
Large parts of the electorate will have to hit the voting booths again on Oct.
24 in the run-off ballots for single-mandate districts. These results will
ultimately decide which parties have the power to forge a coalition. Both the
right-wing parties and the Social Democrats still have not lost hope to become
the next Parliament's driving force and put the Labour Party into opposition.
Lithuania is one of 10 nations that joined the EU May 1st. Its $18 billion
economy grew 9.7 per cent last year, the fastest pace in Europe, and expanded
7.2 percent in the first half of 2004.
MAZ Baltia truck assembly centre opens in Lithuania
Lithuania's Zemgalos automobiliai opened on September 22nd in Vilnius the
MAZ-Baltia assembly centre of Belarus' MAZ trucks, Alexie Tutubalin, deputy
director general for foreign affairs, said, New Europe reported.
According to him, the centre required more than five million litas in
investments, Diana Babalauskebe, the marketing director of Zemgalos automobiliai,
In 2004 the assembly centre is expected to produce 200 MAZ prime movers with a
carrying capacity ranging between 10 and 20 tonnes and dump trucks. The
Lithuanian production line's annual capacity is at about 500 trucks. The
vehicles assembled in Lithuania are planned to be sold to Latvia, Estonia and
some other EU countries, the source said.
The main reason for the organisation of the MAZ assembly in Lithuania is the
country's accession to the EU, which means that Lithuania will collect a 22 per
cent customs duty on all vehicles imported from third states. In January-August
2004 MAZ produced 13,160 automobiles (22.5 per cent up year-on-year), 3,433
trailers and semi-trailers (up 30.1 per cent), 419 buses (up 42.5 per cent).
The total output of the enterprise made 775.9 billion Belarussian rubles in
comparable prices (up 26.7 per cent).
Minsk Automobile Plant - the largest producer of prime movers in the territory
of the former USSR - manufactures around 150 modifications of vehicles, along
with towing vehicles, buses, consumer goods. Over 60 per cent (in cost terms) of
all materials and components are bought in the Russian Federation, and
insignificant amounts are imported from Ukraine and states outside the CIS.
Bankas to buy Ukraine's Agio
Vilniaus Bankas bank, part of the SEB group, applied to the Bank of Lithuania
for permission to acquire the Ukrainian bank Agio, New Europe reported.
According to the agreement signed with Agio, Vilniaus Bankas (VB) will put the
90 per cent controlling interest in the Ukrainian bank. VB expects the agreement
to take effect by the end of this year. The acquisition is a part of SEB's plans
to build up its position in Northern Europe. In addition, the move reflects the
increased activity of the group's business clients in East Europe. "SEB
will be the first Scandinavian bank operating in Lithuania," said Raimondas
Kvedaras, deputy chairman of VB's board.
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