Having returned the Conservatives to power with the help of Ingrida Šimonytė, Gabrielius Landsbergis wishes to become a minister for a specific purpose – political experts do not dismiss the possibility that he is nurturing plans to hand over party leadership to a new leader, Tada Ignatavičius writes in lrytas.lt.
The leader of a party that won the elections and is playing first fiddle in the ruling coalition could probably easily continue steering the party.
Nevertheless, some analysts closely observing the efforts of 38-year old G. Landsbergis to become the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs note a potential aim of stepping down from party chairmanship that could be behind this.
This is because the Conservatives’ success in the elections has yet to open the way for the party’s leader to any more notable positions, bar that of its Seimas group prefect.
But does such a role satisfy the right-wing leader who has fallen into I. Šimonytė’s shadow?
And how long is he inclined to accompany the prime minister?
Furthermore, there are doubts whether while leading the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, G. Landsbergis could also retain control of the ruling party and its Seimas group.
Where do the scales tip to?
While elected the leader of the Conservatives Seimas group, he has always unofficially been also named as the main pretender for the seat of minister of foreign affairs.
After a meeting with President Gitanas Nausėda on 18 November, prime minister-designate I. Šimonytė announced a list of potential ministers, which also includes G. Landsbergis’ name.
That said, the future cabinet head admitted that a final agreement has not been reached on the announced candidates.
However, according to Lietuvos Rytas sources, the Presidential Palace takes no issue with G. Landsbergis becoming a minister.
G. Nausėda is responsible for the country’s foreign policy as per the Constitution and he is uncertain whether the young politician has sufficient diplomatic and leadership experience, but the president is apparently far more concerned with other candidates that could be nominated if G. Landsbergis were rejected.
When faced with a choice between these three candidates, the Presidential Palace’s inclinations lean toward G. Landsbergis. Nevertheless, the question arises who will take over leadership of the Seimas group instead.
There are talks that the leadership of the Conservatives Seimas group could go to Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė who was elected Seimas vice speaker on 17 November.
However, some analysts believe that the Conservatives’ leader could also have further plans for his career, in other words, planning to play a chess game. His grandfather Vytautas Landsbergis would often be described as a specialist in such chess games.
One such step by G. Landsbergis could be to look to transition from the post of minister of foreign affairs to that of a European commissioner.
The term of Lithuania’s current European commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, who was delegated by the “Farmers”, will conclude in 2024 and, if the Conservatives manage to remain in power, the position of head of the diplomacy could be a decent springboard for G. Landsbergis into Brussels.
According to experts, if upon becoming a minister, G. Landsbergis were to withdraw from the role of the main player in the group and party, it would be logical to think that he envisions himself as a European commissioner.
Unsure if he could span everything
Do G. Landsbergis’ political companions foresee such a scenario for potential events? Will the Conservatives’ leader seek to retain party leadership after becoming a minister or will he look to swim out into deeper waters?
Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats deputy chairwoman Irena Degutienė, who has withdrawn from active politics and was consulted by Lietuvos Rytas, noted that it would be tough for G. Landsbergis to juggle several posts.
“Truth be told, it’s hard to imagine. After all, a minister of foreign affairs must constantly travel and is rarely in Vilnius. I cannot imagine how the leader of such a large party could coordinate everything,” the political veteran spoke.
By the way, she had hoped that the party would seek the position of Seimas speaker.
I. Degutienė also admitted that she struggles even more to imagine who could replace G. Landsbergis in the position of party chairman if he were to become a minister.
Furthermore, she thinks that him stepping down would have been relevant had the party lost the elections: “But now, I do not see such a possibility because you cannot tell what G. Landsbergis himself has thought up. One thing is clear – it would be difficult for him to juggle all these positions.”
By the way, G. Landsbergis has led the Conservatives from the outside.
He was initially elected party leader while he was a member of the European Parliament and relinquished this mandate only in 2016 following the so-called political corruption scandal that the then Liberal Movement leadership got embroiled in.
Nevertheless, according to I. Degutienė, if it were to happen that G. Landsbergis would become minister and also would not seek re-election in the party chairman elections this spring, the most likely replacement would be R. Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė.
According to I. Degutienė, this politician has a sizeable backing in the party and is a former MEP: “During the elections in Vilnius, she took down Saulius Skvernelis and so, she isn’t all that unfamiliar to society; if a reshuffle occurred, it’s a possible variant.
However, the ideal solution for the party would be if I. Šimonytė joined it and became chairwoman. Then things would be settled. However, it is uncertain whether this will occur.”
Another veteran of the TS-LKD Jurgis Razma also struggles to imagine who could replace the current party leader. However, the politician is certain that for now, there is no basis for such musings…
“If G. Landsbergis were some 70 years old, perhaps such theoretical musings could be entertained, but currently, it is his time to rise up as a politician and it would not be logical to speak of seeking a new chairperson after winning the Seimas elections,” J. Razma mused.
Caring for himself
Vytautas Magnus University Faculty of Political Science and Diplomacy dean Šarūnas Liekis perceives a growing personal ambition in the Conservatives leader’s aims of becoming the head of the country’s diplomatic corps.
That said, the professor is fairly sceptical of G. Landsbergis’ capacities of leading the country’s diplomacy, given his insufficient experience.
“That said, he is the leader of the winning party and can choose any toy he wants.
Through this step, G. Landsbergis is primarily seeking to avoid comparisons to R. Karbauskis. It could be that in the future, he views himself in diplomatic service and not politics where he appears to have landed by mistake.
The position of minister of foreign affairs would open up various opportunities for him to pursue international positions. This post grants many options if there’s an interest in withdrawing from politics and it is not limited to the position of European commissioner,” Š. Liekis told Lietuvos Rytas.
According to the political scientist, it could be that G. Landsbergis is forced to look for other opportunities also because of his low ratings: “He clearly has trouble because of this and while sitting in the seat of the minister of foreign affairs, he could increase his popularity because it’s a position that is not criticised much – most of the Lithuanian citizens have no interest in foreign policy.” On the other hand, Š. Liekis believes that G. Landsbergis would be unable to successfully lead both he ministry and the party: “He would be unable to control the situation within the party – for a time, it would be left on autopilot and leadership problems would arise from this.”