2017 | 14 | 19-34
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Lithuanian Election 2016: the Mainstream Left and Right Rejected by Voters Angry with the Establishment

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In the 2016 Lithuanian parliamentary election the established political parties suffered an unexpected and crippling defeat at the hand of the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (Lietuvos valstiečių ir žaliųjų sąjunga, LVŽS), a populist one-size-fits-all formation. The aim of this article is to identify and analyze major reasons of the populist victory in Lithuania in the context of global trend of trumpisation of politics. The traditional message of the establishment parties to take care of the economy, to advance foreign investment and improve business climate did not appeal to voters, while the LVŽS made a point of talking about issues people wanted to hear: the need to tackle social exclusion and poverty; to address the privileged position of big business; to fight endemic corruption; to deal with the underfunding of education and culture. The electoral message of the winner combines the hard left promise of radical change on socioeconomic issues and the far right conservative approach to identity politics, human rights, minority rights, gender equality, and refugees. The LVŽS did its best to look as an anti-establishment, anti-party politics force, a loose and wide amalgam of contrasting personalities and contradicting messages. At the same time, the major factor behind the ‘revolutionary’ victory for radical change seems to be the inability of the mainstream parties to sense the change of sentiment of the electorate and to address the growing grievances of the public. The Lithuanian anti-establishment revolt is being compared with Donald Trump’s victory in the US, Brexit in the UK, Poland after the last election in 2015, and Hungary under Victor Orban.
  • Mykolas Romeris University, Vilnius, Lithuania
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