Are the “Farmers” better or worse off with S. Skvernelis?

Skvernelis and Karbauskis
Skvernelis and Karbauskis

Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS) leader Ramūnas Karbauskis would like to see Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis in the electoral roll the “Farmers” will present for the 2020 Seimas elections. Meanwhile, the PM is still hesitating to give a clear answer – he promises to participate in the elections if his health is ok and the party’s programme is acceptable, Viktorija Rimaitė wrote in lrytas.lt

While there is no final answer on whether the prime minister will run in the Seimas elections or not, his name emerges is not the most friendly headlines and stories associated with his wife’s career, the asphalting of a road passing by his house, political support for the minister of transport and communications, who lost the president’s confidence.

According to politics and sociology experts, S. Skvernelis’ political potential should not be written off – the prime minister’s evaluation is based on several factors and yet he continues to draw the attention of his target audience reasonably successfully.

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Declined ratings aren’t all

In January, based on the newest Vilmorus survey, the head of the cabinet received more unfavourable ratings than favourable – 36.4% and 38.6% respectively. Last December, S. Skvernelis was viewed positively by 42.9% and negatively by 29.9% of citizens, while in November the numbers were still in the PM’s favour – 50.7% and 24.1% respectively.

Sociologist Vladas Gaidys explained that looking retrospectively, “There have been prime ministers, who looked both better and worse with nine months to the elections.”

“S. Skvernelis has a sort of vital energy in that despite falling in the ratings as we’ve seen, he can rise up again,” V. Gaidys told lrytas.lt.

The sociologist also emphasised that when analysing the prime minister’s political potential and evaluation, it is important to consider several factors, which span the country’s economic situation, interpersonal relations and capability to represent a specific public group.

“The economy currently looks ok. It’s not entirely clear what audience he represents. As a professional, as a foreman, as a prime minister – he looks ok. He performed decently as a minister as well.

Of course, his personal problems, roadways and similar things leaked into the public domain,” the sociologist commented on the position held by the head of the cabinet and his potential.

A varied history of prime ministers

“Looking historically, Algirdas Butkevičius, while holding the office of the prime minister, had a high rating in January 2016. It began to decline right before the elections and the fall was linked not to personal circumstances or the economy, but more with institutional matters.

During his leadership, the unpopular, particularly among his voters, Labour Code was passed. He had the support of more voters in the regions, who have economic problems, they were concerned with how to live and survive; thus they felt forgotten.

In 2012, with nine months left to the Seimas election, Andrius Kubilius had fallen very low in terms of ratings. When he had just been elected, he had a positive evaluation, but this lasted only briefly because the crisis arrived. His biography was completely clean, everything can be tied to economics, perhaps a little to his rhetoric.

Gediminas Kirkilas’ ratings in 2008 had already begun falling. This correlated with the nearing crisis, which people began to feel before it was visible in the statistics. When Algirdas Mykolas Brazauskas held the office of the prime minister, his ratings were rather high. The decline began with the hotel story,” V. Gaidys went over prior prime ministers’ ratings.

According to him, it is currently hard to decide, what ratings support PM S. Skvernelis will have in the elections – according to the sociologist, in terms of ratings, the prime minister still has to endure several periods before the elections.

Still has a chance

“There have been certain achievements, the public takes note of it, thus to talk about the prime minister as one, who is stepping off the political stage and has no chance, would be a mistake.

Everything depends on what he chooses and what his interests will be in the coming half a year – if he decides to remain in politics, we can expect that we will see a fairly energetic political struggle,” Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) professor, political scientist Lauras Bielinis shared his views with the lrytas.lt news portal.

Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) docent, political scientist Saulius Spurga pointed out that if during the previous elections the “Farmers” looked like a political power, which criticised traditional powers, now this position has faded over four years because the LVŽS’ behaviour is no different from the parties they criticised to enter power.

However, according to S. Spurga, it is also clear that the “Farmers” still retain a part of their political charm that affects a particular audience.

“S. Skvernelis has his style – some like him, some don’t. The “Farmer” party make mistakes. The party’s activities are chaotic.

The prime minister is also likely making mistakes. Nevertheless, the party and prime minister manage to find a tone, which attracts a certain audience. They employ striking rhetoric, which some competitors fail to develop,” the MRU docent stated.

Demonstrating both intrigue and self-confidence

S. Spurga emphasised that this is not the first time the head of the cabinet is keeping up an intrigue – he hesitated for a long time regarding the presidential elections as well. According to S. Spurga, the PM’s statement that he will go to the elections with the LVŽS if his health permits it and the party programme is acceptable is a means to retain safeguards for potential non-participation in the elections.

However, S. Skvernelis no longer has any chances to run in the elections with a different political power.

“He will be the prime minister and there will be an electoral campaign. Let’s think how things would be if he was in a different party’s roll, but remained the prime minister for this government. Such a situation is hardly imaginable,” S. Spurga shared his insight, accenting that the mistakes made by the prime minister and his stance in the face of these mistakes is a show of how S. Skvernelis feels confident.

VDU professor L. Bielinis noted that participation, namely with the LVŽS is greatly beneficial for the prime minister himself.

“Going with the “Farmers” opens a variety of opportunities for S. Skvernelis, this including even opportunities to be in the office he is now. Everything depends on who will win the elections – the right of the left. The left features not only the Social Democrats but also the “Farmers” and a number of other political powers with whom the “Farmers” currently cooperate,” L. Bielinis said.

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