The Phenomenon of Unity and Self-Organization of Poles in the Vilnius Region
Poles in Lithuania are consistently strengthening their position. This was again confirmed in 2019, the year of triple elections in this country and the entry of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance (EAPL-CFA) into the government coalition, which is a sensation on a global scale. Thanks to their unity, Poles in Lithuania have a real impact on their country’s politics, what no other Polish community in another country could do. National minorities in Lithuania make up around 16% inhabitants, Poles (6.5 %) are the largest of them and reside in the Vilnius Region. They are united around the Association of Poles in Lithuania, whose political representation is the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance. It is worth writing a few words about this peculiar phenomenon of unity and perfect self-organization of Wilniuks and their successes.
Poles from the Vilnius Region pray at the feet of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn
Well-Deserved Reputation of the Most Honest Party in Lithuania
EAPL-CFA has always been a party with principles and has a reputation for being the most honest political force in Lithuania. The party has proved that with persistent organizational work of all its members it is possible to do things that seemed impossible. In order to achieve this, unity and fidelity to values that give meaning to human life are needed; we must look into the problems and harms of each person and persistently fight for the common good. Under the leadership of Valdemar Tomasevski, a good organizer with an innate political sense, the party began to achieve further electoral successes. It became an exception and a good example for all Polish diaspora organizations in the world. There is no other country in which Poles would be so well organized, would have influence on the current politics of the country through their own parliamentary faction, ruling in two important ministries, governing independently in two regions, co-governing in four, including the capital, Vilnius, and having a representative in the European Parliament. Neither the 10 million Polish community in the USA nor the Polish community of several million in Germany have such successes. The party chairman did one more important thing – he opened the door to cooperation not only with other national minorities, but also with Lithuanian voters. Thanks to this, EAPL-CFA from the Polish national minority party became a regional party, and then a nationwide one. And recently the party has expanded its name by adding to three very important words: Christian Families Alliance. There is no Polishness without Christianity, it is an inseparable unity. Emphasizing this fact in the name undoubtedly strengthens the party’s image. Voters need clear and specific signposts.
Polish Party as the Leader in the Vilnius County
The electoral battle began in March 2019 with the local government elections. They were difficult for the Polish Community in Lithuania due to the strong competition from Lithuanian parties and the shattering work of people associated with the liberal-leftist media, which supported some communities that were detrimental to the preservation of Polishness in the borderlands. Nevertheless, Poles in Lithuania know how to separate the wheat from the chaff, and they proved it at the ballot boxes and voted for the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance. Thanks to this, the party managed to maintain a stable position on the Lithuanian political scene and its leading position in the Vilnius Region. This strong position has also been confirmed in last local elections. A great success was the victory of mayors in the first round: Marija Rekst, who obtained 54 percent of votes, and Zdzislav Palevič, who was supported by a record number of voters (77 percent) in Lithuania. The Polish party also won the absolute majority in the Vilnius district council, obtaining 19 out of 31 seats, and in the Šalčininkai district council, where it took 20 out of 25 seats. The party obtained 4 out of 25 seats in the councils of Trakai and Švenčionys districts, 3 seats in the Visaginas district and 6 seats in the Vilnius City. Thus, the grouping has 56 councilors in total. The party was unrivaled in the Vilnius County where it won 53 seats of councilors, which puts it on the first place among all parties. This is a sensational result. Interestingly, the second force in the Vilnius County, i.e. conservatives, obtained only 21 seats, and the third, i.e. the greens and farmers – 17 seats. What is very important and requires special emphasis – EAPL-CFA won in the Vilnius County where a third of Lithuanians live, and where almost half of the Lithuanian economy is generated (42 percent of GDP). The first place in such a large county is not only prestigious, but it also means having a real impact on the most important part of the country. In Vilnius, in turn, the party remains at the forefront of the city council and co-forms the ruling coalition, while Edita Tamošūnaitė is still occupying the position of the deputy mayor and Danuta Narbut is the deputy director of administration. It is also worth noting that EAPL-CFA has a deputy mayor Marija Puč in Trakai district, as well as deputy administration directors in the Trakai, Švenčionys and Visaginas districts. The results of the last local elections in the Vilnius Region are impressive, it is best seen on the example of the largest Vilnius district in Lithuania, where 52 percent of Poles live, and where EAPL-CFA obtained as much as 55 percent of votes, which means that the party enjoys exceptional trust and social support.
EAPL-CFA chairman Valdemar Tomaševski during a press conferences
Tomaševski as the ‘President of the Vilnius Region’
The presidential election in Lithuania always has their own specifics; the conservative candidate had the possibility to discover it the hard way in the second round, when she received unexpectedly low support, even fewer votes than in the first round. Gitanas Nausėda was elected as the president. The leader of EAPL-CFA obtained a very good; he won in three districts: Visaginas, Vilnius and Šalčininkai, where the record of the first round of election was broken amounting to over 62% of support. It was 4% in the whole country. It should be mentioned that only four out of nine candidates won in one of the local governments. Nausėda won in 46 local governments and Ingrida Šimonytė in eight. The EAPL-CFA chairman Tomaševski was also one of them. He, just like the Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, won in three local governments. This is a success, especially since Tomaševski won in 102 electoral districts, which is 6 percent of all electoral districts in the country, including 43 in the Vilnius district, and even 3 in the Vilnius City. And this is undoubtedly an eloquent example of the support and trust of voters that the party has been enjoying for years. But the most important is, however, that for the third time in a row the party was definitely unrivaled in regions traditionally inhabited by Poles, where it outclassed or even knocked out its rivals. That is why Tomaševski is called the president of the Vilnius Region; and the election results obtained by him confirm this informal – because honorary – function. Undoubtedly, Tomaševski is the voice of the Vilnius Region, he is its leader, and the vast majority of its inhabitants identify with him as the one who best represents their interests and effectively fights for their rights. He is a true patriot and comes from a truly patriotic family. His parents were teachers in Polish schools in the Vilnius Region, while his uncle was a soldier of the Home Army, he was among those who refused to take an oath to Berling, for which he was arrested and taken to the labour camps, to Kaloega. Valdemar Tomaševski himself defended Polishness even in Soviet times, when in 1980 at school he pointed directly to the Soviet perpetrators of the Katyn massacre, for what he was later persecuted.
During an electoral convention of EAPL-CFA
Participation in the presidential election gave the opportunity to present the EAPL-CFA program throughout Lithuania, especially during presidential debates, which enjoyed great interest. Thanks to them, Tomaševski could present the positive achievements of the Vilnius Region and local governments managed by Poles. He also presented the details of the party’s social program, such as family support, free medicines for seniors, support for farmers and school development. He spoke about the importance of social justice, Christian and family-friendly values, defense of the life of unborn, helping ordinary people as his actions’ priorities. Reaching voters with this information is important in the context of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Especially since Tomaševski did very well in the debates, he was credible and concrete, which was emphasized by political scientists and voters from various parts of Lithuania.
EAPL-CFA in Political Top League
Elections to the European Parliament finalized the election marathon. They were a great success. Poles in Lithuania did a great job. EAPL-CFA won the seat of the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the third time in a row, achieving 5.5 percent of support, which is about 70 thousand votes. From among 11 Lithuanian MEPs of the 2014-2019 term, only five were re-elected, including Valdemar Tomaševski. The achieved result is excellent, because EAPL-CFA practically as the only one of the Lithuanian parliamentary parties maintained the same result as in the last elections to Seimas in 2016, achieving in both elections 5.5% and 70 thousand votes. Completed with winning the mandate of the MEP, the start in the European elections is a masterpiece performed by EAPL-CFA. We can name several factors that determined the European parliamentary success: a very good campaign at the European level, excellent mobilization of EAPL-CFA voters, but first and foremost the charismatic leader of the list, Valdemar Tomaševski, for whom the campaign to the European Parliament was in some sense a continuation of the presidential campaign.
In these hard times Europe needs a politician who clearly expresses his views, who is faithful to his principles and strong in his spirit; the ninth term of the European Parliament will be a breakthrough for the future of the Union and will determine its character for the coming decades. The current term will decide on Union’s identity and the values on which the Union will be based. It is good that the Vilnius Region has a trustworthy representative, politician of principles and values in Brussels and Strasbourg.
Important Ministries for Poles
The government reconstruction in Lithuania took place in July 2019. The day after the EP elections the Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis made an official proposal for Tomaševski to expand the government coalition. The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance achieved another political success – the party became part of the ruling coalition of Lithuania, manning as many as two key ministries, internal affairs and transport and communications. According to news agencies in Poland, Lithuanian Poles have never had so many and so important ministries. This is undoubtedly a very accurate and apt remark, because Poles rule as many as two influential ministries. Nothing brings you closer to implementing your own program than participation in exercising power. EAPL-CFA knows this mechanism perfectly and implements it at the level of local governments. Now the party is taking this positive experience to the governmental level. The decision to join the government placed the party in the political top league and provided the Poles with new opportunities. These are very important ministries, because the Ministry of the Interior, managed by Rita Tamašunienė, apart from being responsible for the police, deals with administration and local governments as well as regional policy. The Ministry of Transport and Communications, on the other hand, managed by Jaroslav Narkevič, is an extremely important field for the whole Lithuania, giving 10 percent of GDP, and for the Baltic Sea region as well. What is very important, thanks to the negotiation efficiency of EAPL-CFA, the party’s core theses were included in the coalition agreement.
Valuable Initiatives of the EAPL-CFA Parliamentary Faction
An important link in policy making is the eight-member parliamentary EAPL-CFA faction (equivalent to a Polish deputy club), which makes up 6 percent of the Lithuanian parliament, whose chairwoman is Vanda Kravčionok, and deputy chairman – Česlav Olševski. The faction referred to the Seimas acts on national minorities, education, land return, changes in electoral law at various levels of elections, protection of conceived life, lustration of former agents, and act on taxation of bank assets. The faction also presented family-friendly and social proposals. Thanks to EAPL-CFA deputies, families will receive more benefits for children already this year; moreover, a very well-assessed family card has been introduced, entitling families to various types of discounts. The Seimas also introduced free medicines for seniors at the initiative of EAPL-CFA. To add, 2nd November, the so-called All Souls’ Day has been entered on the list of non-working days also on the initiative of the EAPL-CFA faction. Moreover, 2020 will be marked in Lithuania as the “Year of St. John Paul II”. These are effective initiatives of the Polish faction, which were adopted by an absolute majority of votes. This is a beautiful accent, showing fully the world of values, which guide the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance in public life.
Dr Bogusław Rogalski
Political scientist, Expert in Polish and international affairs