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Litvak vote influential in poll for European Parliament

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It’s election season this year around the world, with the people of more than 50 countries going to cast their ballots. Fresh from the Lithuanian presidential elections, Lithuanians living in South Africa go back to cast their votes for the European Parliament this Sunday, 9 June 2024.

For those who didn’t apply for a postal vote, a voting station will be available on Sunday, 9 June, at Beyachad, 2 Elray Street, Raedene Estate, Johannesburg, between the hours of 11:00 and 17:00. All voters must bring their Lithuanian passports or identity cards.

In anticipation of a hotly contested election, the SA Jewish Report interviewed one of the most senior members of the Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament), Emanuelis Zingeris, who is now standing for election to the European Parliament.

Zingeris has served in the Seimas since 1990, with a short four-year break in the middle, and is one of the signatories to the Act of the Re-establishment of the State of Lithuania, which re-established an independent Lithuania after the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union.

Today he serves as chairperson of the Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, heads the human rights committee, and is vice-president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Zingeris is the son of a Holocaust survivor, who grew up speaking English and Yiddish at home with a strong, positive Jewish identity. His mother survived the Kovno Ghetto and the Stutthof concentration camp. His father fought against the Nazis in the Lithuanian division of the Soviet Army. His brother, Mark, who recently passed away, was one of the most respected poets, novelists, and intellectuals in Lithuania.

During a short break from Parliament, Zingeris founded and became the director of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum in Vilnius, and is an honorary chairperson of the Lithuanian Jewish community.

He describes both candidates who contested the final round of the Lithuanian presidential elections as pro-North Atlantic Treaty Organization, pro-European Union, and pro-Israel, however the current prime minister, whose party Zingeris is aligned with, herself is more vocal in favour of human rights and LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning or queer) rights.

What’s worrying is that in the early rounds of the presidential elections, a pro-Moscow candidate received 9% of the vote, the same candidate who was found guilty of anti-Israel and antisemitic remarks. Who are these voters, Zingeris wonders, and where do they come from?

Zingeris said it was important to have voices in the European Parliament that support a strong, united Europe, a strong defence pact, and a strong voice against racism, antisemitism, and anti-Israel rhetoric. It’s up to us to ensure that those important voices get elected into the European Parliament.

In addition, he said Jewish communities around the world should be more vocal in explaining Israel’s position in their own countries. On 10 October 2023, Zingeris proposed a resolution in the Lithuanian Seimas in support of Israel and against the Hamas terror attacks. It was passed overwhelmingly. Iranian support for Russia in its war against Ukraine has also assisted in turning Lithuanians in favour of Israel.

Luckily, the thousands of Lithuanians living in South Africa have a chance this Sunday to express their choice and hopefully send Zingeris to Parliament in Strasbourg and Brussels.

  • Vote in the Lithuanian European Parliamentary election on Sunday, 9 June 2024, from 11:00 to 17:00 at Beyachad, 2 Elray Street, Raedene Estate.

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