After the elections, an alarm for the Conservatives: assessing the future of Šimonytė and the test that awaits Nausėda

Dr. Gitanas Nausėda
President, Dr. Gitanas Nausėda

The results of the second round of the presidential elections, which ended on Sunday, clearly indicates that Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) needs to undertake some serious changes, Indrė Naureckaitė states in Otherwise, according to experts, it risks becoming a second-rate player in the political field.

After reviewing the results of the presidential elections, political analysts assessed what path the defeated Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė could take after the elections, what kind of a second term for the re-elected Head of the country Gitanas Nausėda will be, and what the results will mean for the forthcoming Seimas elections.

Broken record

On Sunday evening, it emerged that in the presidential elections, Nausėda snatched the predicted landslide victory – the country’s leader became the President with the highest percentage of the popular vote since independence. 74.43% of voters cast their vote for him.

However, in absolute terms, Nausėda’s result was behind the President himself in 2019 and, for example, Dalia Grybauskaitė in 2019 or Artūras Paulauskas in 1997.

In a meantime, the Conservative candidate, Prime Minister Šimonytė, received 24.06% or 284 384 votes.

The Conservative did not turn up either

Ainius Lašas, a political scientist at Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), said that Šimonytė’s result, although predicted, is relatively modest and already raises some questions about the forthcoming Seimas elections.

“I was surprised that Šimonytė did not generate any extra votes in the second round.

If we add up the votes of Žalimas and Šimonytė, she got only half a percentage point more in the second round. This is a small amount, given that the turnout was around 10% lower, which should be to the advantage of the Conservatives because their voter usually comes. In this case, he didn’t come either”, the political analyst noted the first alarm signal for the Conservatives.

The reasons why the Conservative voter did not come, according to Lašas, are obvious – the Government is working in its last months, and there have been a lot of challenges during the term of office. However, political analysts are convinced that Conservatives should try to close this phase and find someone to increase the party’s popularity.

“We all understand that there will be another election cycle, and the next Prime Minister will be just as unpopular – this unpopularity is a normal phenomenon and should not surprise anyone.

But if the Conservatives wanted to excite their electorate somehow, to inject a little more enthusiasm, they would need a new electoral list or a new leader of the electoral list,” Lašas said.

Must change

For his part, Lauras Bielinis, a political scientist at Vytautas Magnus University (VDU), was even stricter – in his opinion, if the Conservatives don’t change the way they communicate with the public, they risk being left on the margins of the political arena.

“The result shows that the Conservatives have not managed to increase the ranks of their supporters. They have the same number of voters supporting them, which means that unless they change their approach to the voter and broaden the range of voters supporting them, they are destined to have only a secondary role in the political field,” Bielinis said.

In this case, the political analyst believes that changing the leader of the Conservative Party will not be enough.

“Leaders need to be prominent and probably new. However, the foremost concern is their attitude towards society, those who think differently, and those with different political positions. Currently, Conservatives tend to accuse those who think differently rather than trying to understand them,” noted the political analyst.

Propose a reshuffle

Assessing what path Šimonytė could take after the end of her term in office, Lašas suggested that the Prime Minister could take over the helm of the Conservative Party.

“The most advantageous scheme for the party is one in which she is the party chair, but she would hand over the top spot on the electoral list to, for example, Monika Navickienė.

It would update the list a bit and liven it up. Ms Navickienė is a well-known, quite popular person. It would be a helpful reshuffle. If Šimonytė leads the list, there won’t be much enthusiasm,” the political analyst predicted.

How will Nausėda change?

Having established strong support from the Lithuanian population, President Nausėda is also entering a new phase. How might Nausėda and his decisions change when he no longer has to consider re-election?

Lašas does not foresee any significant changes or rule out the possibility that the President may continue to think about his political activities after his five-year term of office.

“Perhaps Nausėda is now also thinking about his political future, let’s say, a party future – that cannot be ruled out either, because he doesn’t rule it out, either, and he is talking about maybe thinking about a party, about joining. Or maybe not. The future is vague,” the political scientist noted.

He sees only possible change after the Seimas elections when the relationship between the Presidency and the new government could change. However, the political analyst noted that Nausėda’s first test is two months away.

“The first test will be the approval of the Government. Then, we will see whether the President wants to confront or say something to the current Government and his voters in general. It will be interesting.

If there are additional questions beyond the Minister of Education, Science and Sport, and if they are escalated, then there will be a new Nausėda in the political arena. But I would doubt it,” the political analyst said.

Lašas is convinced that if the President insists on changing ministers, he can do so, but it does not make sense to do so a few months before the Seimas elections.

At the same time, Bielinis also hoped that Nausėda would not confront the Conservatives over ministers.

“I wouldn’t wish anyone, including Nausėda, to start with a confrontation. Conservatives and the voters who support them are also citizens of our country, patriotic enough but sharp. They are, but they also need to be communicated with – one should not conflict with anyone (…) I think the President will try to look for an element that unites the nation and society,” Bielinis said.

In this respect, the political analyst believes that the bathing of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) in the rays of Nausėda’s victory is also a good thing, as it predicts a more harmonious work of the possible Government and the Presidency.

“Naturally, the Social Democrats are trying to make the most out of this cooperation, out of the presidential victory – and they probably will. Therefore, by talking, the Social Democrats are trying to extend those victorious inertias and transfer them from the President to the Seimas elections. Fine – let them do it.

We have often seen miscommunication and confrontation between the President and the majority of the Seimas. This attempt by one political branch to break the other political branch does not taste good. But here I see cooperation,” said Mr Bielinis.

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