Artūras Vaškevičius. What will we elect – a president or a portrait?

Artūras Vaškevičius
K. Vaškevičiaus nuotr.

All the presidents of contemporary Lithuania were already notable or even undisputed leaders even before the elections.

Brazauskas was simply popular, Paksas unexpectedly descended from the skies and appeared in all the newspapers with his jacket slung on his shoulder, Grybauskaitė stormed in as if the Maiden of Orleans on a white horse and golden sword.

It was possibly only V. Adamkus who brought calmly presented a message and a programme, which remains relevant to this day. And this is what it is: “Human civic-mindedness, freedom and responsibility, an open society and democratic state order based on the rule of law. Welfare and social justice based on private initiative must establish itself in Lithuania. Lithuania must become a land of equal opportunities for everyone.”

Indeed, during Valdas Adamkus’ tenure, there was a significant decline among people in hostility and hatred, a democratic and open society began to surface. People began to feel free in their free homeland.

However today, with a year left to the elections, the candidate field is flat, as if recently harvested, without a single more notable individual. There are no leaders, they simply do not exist and that is all.

While the list of potential candidates is actively developing, even elbowing one another a little, if journalists ask, they get evasive, stating it is not time yet, they have not made up their mind, are still thinking.

That’s not leader-like at all. It turns out that these people perhaps do not have strategies, visions, perhaps they fear that after declaring their intent they can lose something?

What can they lose? Something they don’t have? Or, it can’t be denied, they are afraid their competitors will, with this time, find some sort of past misdeeds? However, that would be good then, even great; we do not need a tainted president. Or do the upcoming candidates have nothing to say other than that they wish to be president?

Well then, let us have a look at the secret-public list of candidates.

Two managing statesmen, who had a similar start and now hold similar power and influence. Two high calibre diplomatic bureaucrats with international experience and numerous friends around the world. Two famous economists, with one stating she does not want to run for president and the other claiming she will stand in for the first, but does not deny the possibility of being first.

One industrialist leader, very intellectual and eloquent. One bank expert, who has known everything for years and years, having expressed it in an appealing voice. One politician, ever more experienced from every election. One social democrat, who knows which so far because they are now peculiarly split. The “Farmers” promise to surprise with a candidate, but we know how it is called when you pull it out of a sleeve or hat.

Furthermore, they will all distribute among themselves or already have distributed topics – one talks about healthcare, another about emigration, a third about education, a fourth about pensions – topics are in ample supply.

They are eternal and unending. The candidates’ teams carefully study how much can be promised so that the people would believe, they create texts, how well the candidate understands the common man, write up articles, how many hardships the candidate had in their youth, manufacture pictures with family, at work and in nature, print fliers, posters and newspapers where they explain that this is the only, most intelligent, most sensitive, most beautiful.

It even happens that they write up broad programmes, as if they were aiming for the post of prime minister.

When everyone is almost equal, when there is no idea leader, who the nation would follow without extra urging, form becomes content – to appeal to voters at any cost. This is where money comes into play, the bigger, the greater the chances to win.

The candidates, sometimes backed by famous, sometimes by secretive financial-economic-political power start popularising their electoral portraits far earlier. They know very well – the more you show, the better the people remember.

In posters, newspapers, television, even in shows that even the candidates themselves do not watch. And it matters not, what you say, the portrait matters, to appear pretty. Technologies have many so-called contact rules, which mean one thing – if the voter can see, hear and read about you enough, you can expect victory.

All these rules were once accurately summarised by Arvydas Vydžiūnas – “show a cow on TV every day and it will definitely be elected.”

But Lithuania needs a vision, an idea. It is crying out for it. To hold out against encroaching globalisation, whose claws we already feel. First of all – emigration, which even birthed the term “global Lithuania” that echoes off dual citizenship.

After regaining independence, the people did not obtain property. Or rather, it was taken away from them by fraudsters through privatisation, the land is being overtaken by several business groups, the people do not have anything, even private pensions.

Even worse – it has become financially viable to not work, this is why we lead the world in various problems, which are painful to even list. Theft, corruption, nepotism, lack of trust in the government. The country is only a semi-democracy, the regions have almost no autonomy. People are being split apart, alienated and social segregation is rising.

Perhaps feeling and seeing that Lithuania is struggling to find a common value denominator to unite and lead forward, some news media outlets organised a search for ideas for Lithuania. It cannot be dismissed that they were perhaps attempting to aid in the upcoming presidential elections.

And even though the most prominent Lithuanian figures were involved, the most important institutions, noise remains noise. The organisers themselves admit without hiding their bitterness that the winning ideas are simply programme points, which were already obvious. In essence, you could say that the king was left naked, just no one dares admit it.

Yes, rallying enthusiasm on the occasion of the centenary of statehood was possible.

It can continue for a while longer, however joy without a path to the future cannot last long. It is enough to only look at the incomprehensible nonsense ongoing in Seimas and you will be left with hopelessness because we must admit that while it is not a mirror image of society, but it is still a reflection.

The time of enthusiasm will pass when everyone will come back down to earth and realise that the prices are still rising, the people’s real incomes are not rising, the youth cannot find employment and emigration is rising.

However, the idea, as Vytautas Landsbergis said, is Lithuania! It only needs to be granted the dynamic of content. Perhaps we should look at Estonia, which stated, “we are and will be e-Estonia”, once again. We are expecting something from our future, still uncertain candidates.

The nation and the state need a moral leader carrying an idea, raising the people’s self-worth, self-confidence, encouraging talents to realise themselves in Lithuania. The future will show, what we will elect – a president or a portrait.

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