Austerity-weary voters in Lithuania looked set yesterday to evict the Baltic state’s four-year-old Conservative government in a general election and hand power to the left.
Opinion polls showed Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius’ Conservative party and its Liberal allies facing punishment by the electorate despite a recovery from one of the world’s deepest recessions.
Voters in the EU nation are expected to swing behind the center-left Social Democrats led by Algirdas Butkevicius, and the left-wing populist Labor party of controversial Russian-born ex-minister and businessman Viktor Uspaskich.
Butkevicius, a former finance minister, is tipped to become prime minister in a coalition with Labor.
The left pledges to raise the minimum wage and introduce a progressive income tax, but Butkevicius has also underlined his prudent credentials.
He quit as finance minister in 2005 in part because the then Social Democrat-led government did not close the gap between spending and revenue.
Defeat by the Social Democrats would be a bitter blow for Kubilius, who beat them in the last election in 2008 and is the only Lithuanian prime minister to survive a full term.
In 2008, voters heeded his message that the Social Democrats failed to rein in breakneck growth fueled by credit and wage hikes and left Lithuania ill-prepared for the global crisis.
Kubilius was also prime minister from 1999 to 2000, when Lithuania was lashed by the economic meltdown in neighboring Russia. However, the 2009 crisis was far deeper, with Lithuania’s economy shrinking by 14.8 percent.
The Kubilius government launched spending cuts well beyond those of Western members of the EU, which Lithuania joined in 2004.
“This prime minister now is linked to the cuts in wages and pensions, which many people felt personally,” analyst Ramunas Vilpisauskas said, adding that Kubilius had been frank and never sought popularity.
Despite facing defeat, Kubilius is unbowed.
“If you want to come back to recovery, first of all you need to implement fiscal austerity measures, you need to bring back order into your financial system,” he said “And we have the results.”
The recovery began in 2010, with output expanding by 1.4 percent, before increasing to 6 percent last year, but analysts say too few voters feel the benefits. The government’s growth forecast is a slower 2.5 percent this year and 3 percent next year.
Gloom has stoked emigration to western Europe, which still seems an option despite its economic woes. Last month’s data showed Lithuania’s population was 2.98 million, its lowest in decades. In 2001, it was almost 3.5 million.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy