ELECTIONS. Only takes 5 minutes to wish the debate to end

Presentation of the SocDems electoral programme
DELFI / Domantas Pipas

“The problem seems to be that already after five minutes, you end up wanting that the debate would end,” Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) lecturer, political scientist Rima Urbonaitė shared her impressions on the Tuesday debate between the small parties on law enforcement. The expert was highly critical of the candidates for all the participating parties, Order and Justice (TT), Lithuanian Freedom Union (LLS), “Way of Courage”, Lithuanian Green Party and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families’ Union (LLRA-KŠS), Alfa.lt reported.

She expressed doubt whether anyone other than journalists, political analysts and other related experts watched the debate up to the end, particularly with a clear lack of preparation on part of the parties. She highlighted a lack of competence and found that the responses on mandatory military drafting had reached the point of dilettantism, adding that those in the military likely would have received the comments very negatively.

A total drought of ideas

The comments made by the leader of the TT, Remigijus Žemaitaitis were found to be weak and controversial. The main narrative was that the party was against reforms, but their recommendations would often require at least a modicum of it.

Both R. Žemaitaitis‘ TT and the LLS‘ leader Artūras Zuokas are left in a difficult position to discuss law enforcement when both parties are scandal prone. Particularly with Zuokas’ attracting the description of “steals, but gives to Vilnius” over his years as mayor in the capital, it is tough for him to discuss problems of corruption.

The expert struggled to discuss the statements of Way of Courage leader Jonas Varkala, as she found him to not have talked of the current situation in society, but only what has been in the past. “He wants to eradicate bribery by changing children’s tales and the conscript army should be assigned more professionals for training, but not equipment. So I’m not too sure, are we going to defend with clubs? Neither logics, nor elementary preparations to be seen,” observed Urbonaitė.

The leader of the Lithuanian Green Party Linas Balsys was found to at least occasionally react to the statements of other parties and had the occasional glimpse of a clearer presentation of ideas, but it was all covered by a lack of deeper insight.

Meanwhile the expert found the LLRA-KŠS candidate Jaroslavas Narkevičius to have lacked adequate preparation, instead simply throwing around populist statements.

“Very many unclear and unjustified phrases were uttered. A complete drought of ideas. Such debates are no debates. I think that it is a sort of suffering for everyone, probably including those participating. They are continuing to torture voters this way and probably thus demotivate them even more,” Urbonaitė generalised.

A show with no content

Not only the debate on Tuesday, but the entire election campaign has been marked with a drought of ideas, with even the US presidential elections evoking more of a response in the media and social networks. Why is it so and how are parties trying to attract voters?

R. Urbonaitė finds that on one hand it’s a belief among parties that voters will not read party programmes, based on a perception that votes tend to boil down to emotional and visual cues. Parties are demonstrating a certain apathy, believing they will exceed the 5% vote barrier needed to enter Seimas and then will somehow form a coalition government.

She stressed that in the end many voters simply are not interested in politics, making parties attempt to attract voters not with content, but with show elements, slightly lacking visualisations and populist speeches.

To conclude the expert notes that many parties are taking the path of populism, with the current Seimas electoral campaign being a good illustration of current Lithuanian political culture “Unfortunately we cannot hope for more at the moment and neither do voters demand it,” she notes.

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