If the conservatives decide to send Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė to next year’s presidential elections, she would start from a very uncomfortable position, explains Saulius Spurga, a political scientist at Mykolas Romeris University (MRU), lrytas.lt portal reported.
According to him, it will be really difficult to challenge President Gitanas Nausėda, whose support has already reached a high level.
Nausėda has secured first place in the presidential ratings table, with support for the current head of state rising in July. In June, 19.3% of respondents would have voted for him, and in July – 22.9%, according to a poll carried out by the public opinion and market research company Spinter Research on behalf of the portal Delfi.
Lawyer Ignas Vėgėlė is still far behind Nausėda. In July, he was supported by 8.6% of respondents, while in June – by 10.1% of the population.
Prime Minister Šimonytė moved up to third place in the presidential rankings, where 7.1% of respondents would have voted for her in July (5.7% in June).
MRU political scientist S.Spurga reviewed this situation in the “Lietuvos rytas” TV programme “Nauja diena”.
What will happen in the Conservative camp?
The programme mentioned that the current head of state demonstrated his achievements and leadership during the NATO summit in Vilnius and in managing the security situation in the country and other topical issues.
However, when asked whether Nausėda could already sleep soundly and dream of a second term in office, Spurga did not draw firm conclusions.
“You know, there are no guaranteed things in life. As students say – even if they are well prepared for an exam and are sure of themselves, until you pass the exam, until you see the grade, you can’t be calm and sleep peacefully. So anything can still happen, but that is the trend.
Delfi has just published a ten-month rating dynamic, and here you can see that all the other politicians, or those who may run for the presidency, have fluctuated in their ratings over this period – they have risen and fallen. But the only politician with a clear trend is G.Nausėda, whose ratings have been steadily rising and have now reached their highest point”, commented Spurga.
It is said that in every presidential election, the current ruling Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) party is unable to find a candidate who can win. Internal party elections will take place, and the final candidate will be announced in the autumn.
Mr Spurga wondered who could run within the Conservatives.
“There is an interesting situation here, a system copied from the US, where the party openly and democratically chooses its own candidate, and it depends on many factors. Obviously, it depends on how much effort the candidate himself puts into it, and the other thing is the calculation of how much this or that candidate is not only popular in the party but how much he can actually win.
The situation here is as clear as it can be – the most popular and well-known politician in the TS-LKD party is I.Šimonytė,” the MRU expert explained.
According to Spurga, four years ago, Šimonytė was not even a member of the Conservative Party, but by not belonging to this political force, she has become both the Prime Minister and the leader of the party list. However, there is a serious question as to whether the current head of government could challenge Nausėda.
“They fought in the second round in the last elections, we know the result, and the situation is probably even less favourable for her now. Nausėda is a popular politician, and the dynamics of his ratings are clearly positive, and we know that it is not only the overall level of ratings that is important but also the dynamics of the ratings, which is particularly evident during the elections.
If the dynamics are positive, we can expect even more votes than the polls show. And Ms Šimonytė would be starting from a very uncomfortable position – that of Prime Minister, and Prime Ministers are traditionally not popular in Lithuania.
It has happened many times when governments have a certain level of popularity, a certain level of trust, but during the term of office, it has been decreasing, decreasing, and during the elections, that level will be very much reduced.
And this is not even Šimonytė’s fault, but simply the way the political process works,” the political scientist explained.
He positively views the early statement by LVŽS
Asked how he would assess the chances of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP), which is also at the top of all ratings, in the presidential elections, S. Spurga considered that the party’s leader, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, would most likely not test her chances, but the party itself should not miss the opportunity to shine.
“It seems to me that V.Blinkevičiūtė has publicly stated that she is not interested in this post. She will not be standing for election, and the party will probably follow the Peasant Party and participate in the elections nominally – perhaps in order to pursue other goals, to publicise its political programme, even though it is aware that it has little or no chance of winning.
But political parties and political organisations manifest themselves in elections, it is their duty to participate in elections, and often they do so. In other words, they get media attention, and they get airtime. Their choices can be different”, he commented.
However, Spurga is optimistic about the early decision of the Lithuanian Peasants and Greens Union (LVŽS) to field its first official candidate – former Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga.
“I am optimistic because this is not the first time we are talking about him and mentioning him. Getting this much attention from nowhere is already this – any politician will tell you that. The political party must have done so with this in mind.
Veryga is a politician Lithuania knows well, and it would be very difficult for him to show a different side of himself during the election campaign and still be believed by the voters. He has his own constituency, but it is as large as, if not larger than, those who do not like him.
But he will do his duty, as he did in the Kaunas mayoral elections, where he was also condemned, and as he did in the parliamentary elections in Kaunas, where he was also defeated.
Apparently, he has little chance, but I think that the political party, the Peasants, did the right thing because a political party has to take part in all the elections”, – the political scientist is convinced.
How was the support of other politicians distributed?
The ratings also showed that the support of ex-Prime Minister Saulus Skvernelis has dropped slightly, and he has given the fourth place to the leader of the Social Democrats, V.Blinkevičiūtė, who was supported by 5.3% of the respondents in July (5.7% in June). 4.7% (6.2% in June) would vote for Skvernelis in the July elections.
Fewer respondents wanted to see public figure Andrius Tapinas as President in July. His support fell from 6.6% in June to 4.3% in July.
In seventh place remained Minister of National Defence Arvydas Anušauskas, for whom 3.4% of respondents would vote in the presidential elections in July (4.7% in June).
Next in the rankings are Remigijus Žemaitaitis, a Member of Parliament (3.2% in July), and Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Speaker of the Seimas (2.7% in July).
Remigijus Šimašius, Aušra Maldeikienė, Valdemaras Tomaševskis, Petras Gražulis and Gabrielius Landsbergis, who were included in the poll, received less than 2% of the popular vote.
However, 10.7% of respondents indicated voting for another politician. 14.2% did not know who they would vote for, while 10.8% said they would not participate in the elections.
The public opinion and market research company “Spinter tyrimai” conducted a public opinion poll on 20-29 July 2023 on behalf of the news portal Delfi. The survey was carried out among the population aged between 18 and 75 years.
The survey method used was a combined one: 50% via telephone and 50% via the Internet. In the case of telephone interviews, the survey is conducted by a professional interviewer. The interviewer interviews the respondent on the basis of a set of questions and records the answers in a questionnaire.
In an online survey, a link to the survey is sent to the respondent, who completes it at their own convenience. The link is unique, i.e. the questionnaire cannot be completed several times.
The survey covered 1009 respondents. The distribution of participants by gender, age and place of residence is proportional to the population distribution in Lithuania. The margin of error of the survey results is 3.1%.