Lithuania’s youth shoots itself in the foot


The European Parliament elections in Lithuania this year were held jointly with the second round of the presidential elections, which were won by a landslide majority by the incumbent president supported by the conservative and liberal parties. Due to these circumstances the EP elections were determined by the right-wing parties in opposition, which have aimed to severely impede the political space for manoeuvring of the ruling social democratic party by dismantling the existing centre-left coalition government and trying to force the social democrats into creating a rainbow coalition with the conservative party. The latter scenario, however, is unlikely, but such possibility does remain. Also, due to the massive support of the media, the liberals and conservatives orchestrated a successful election campaign, and gained additional voters, especially among the urban electorate in major cities. Since the campaign was not focused on the EU agenda, the discourse in media lacked the reflections about anti-European sentiments.

Losing the youth

One of the reasons why the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party performed not as well as it expected to was the mobilization of the right-wing electorate in the presidential elections. Re-elected President Dalia Grybauskaitė has been far more proactive than Zigmantas Balčytis, the social democratic presidential candidate. He was also on the list for the European Parliament elections, which did not go well with some of the moderate left-wing sympathizers. And even though social democrats still are the most popular and influential political party in Lithuania today, they performed relatively badly because of their inability to attract the urban vote of 18-34 years old. The latter voted in favour of the liberals, a fact which needs extra attention and reflection.

The shadow of communism

Given the fact that liberals in Lithuania are hard-core neoliberals, their success is telling. In this respect liberals could be considered to be true winners of these elections. If then in Germany, for example, liberals were wiped out during the past two elections, in an East European country such as Lithuania, liberals have been able to hold the ground and advance their electoral position further. The fear of the long gone Communist past, which the young generation did not experience, still does play a role in Lithuania. That is to say, the left-right divide is still wrongly partly perceived as the divide between the ex-communist Russia friendly Left versus patriotic, pro-transatlantic, pro-European/American Right.

The mistake of the youth

What is most surprising, however, is the superficiality and, one may say, false-soulnessness of urban-young voters. The 18-30-year-old generation is, as it is the case in other European societies, a lost generation. It is a generation of people who will be heavily indebted to banks and forced to rely on their “generosity” in every step they will take. And yet the youth votes for neoliberals who invest in their social-media driven electoral campaigns in order to look “cool”. It will be the “cool” neoliberals who will entice the youth in loans and mortgages in its pursuit of postmodern happiness.

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