Former President Dalia Grybauskaitė’s strong statements in the public sphere have sparked a discussion that she may try her luck again in the presidential elections in 2024. Although opinion polls show that voters would be inclined to support the former head of state, Grybauskaitė herself has ruled out a return to active political life, Vilmantas Venckūnas writing at tv3.lt portal.
Experts are divided on Grybauskaitė‘s possible candidacy for the elections, as they are on her chances of taking up a high-ranking position in international organisations. While some feel that the former President has never been a serious candidate to lead NATO or the European Commission, others argue that in the current context of war, Europe needs a leader like Dalia Grybauskaitė.
Grybauskaitė‘s statement following the European Commission’s clarification on the application of sanctions on the Kaliningrad transit was resounding.
“The party of Kinkadrebys (the knuckles shaker) the Lithuanian politicians dance the party of the Kinkadrebys in a political ballet. We had to openly say that a decision was taken in consultation with our partners and the EC. And there was no need to hide awkwardly behind the EC’s back. Unfortunately, so far, the political elite in charge has demonstrated an inability to take strategic decisions in foreign policy. This is why we see distractions and pathetic communication,” the President wrote.
This is not the first time in recent times that Grybauskaitė’s remarks have sparked a lot of debate in public and political circles. For example, after President Gitanas Nausėda’s annual report, Grybauskaitė turned all the ramp lights on herself when she announced an impending crisis.
“What I don’t hear in [the President’s] speech, in the Government’s speeches, in politicians’ plans, is that it is necessary to take into account the deterioration of the geopolitical, economic situation. There is a high probability that from theories about stagflation, the economy is moving into recession. We can already see this autumn and winter. This means that in Lithuania, too, an economic crisis will emerge within two to three months. <…> So far, I hear enthusiasm for peace, prosperity, and sharing. There are no more funds”, said the former head of state.
After Grybauskaitė’s resounding remarks, there were speculations that perhaps the former President was trying to remind herself of herself and that she was preparing to try to storm the Daukantas Square Palace again in 2024 and win the presidential elections. The polls show that she would have a chance.
According to a poll conducted by Spinter Research, 16.6% of the country’s population would vote for Nausėda, while 15.2% would vote for Grybauskaitė, according to a public opinion poll commissioned by the Delfi news portal.
Below the table are ex-Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis with 7.6% support, current Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė with 7.2%, and 5.8% of respondents would vote for the former chairman of the Bar Council, Ignas Vėgėlė.
Thus, the closest persecutor of D. Grybauskaitė is twice as far ahead, while her main rival G. Nausėda is not that far behind. However, Grybauskaitė herself has brushed aside any talk of her possible participation in the presidential elections in two years’ time.
“Discussions about the next presidential elections in 2024 are gaining momentum. I will say it again that I have retired from active politics after the end of my second term.
I will remain in the public sphere and occasionally speak out on various topical issues. Nobody can deny me the right to have an opinion. I thank all my supporters for their understanding. And to all the haters – calm down and don’t grumble,” Grybauskaitė wrote on Facebook.
Grybauskaitė adds spice to the last Lithuanian politics
Vytautas Dumbliauskas, associate professor at Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) and political scientist, thinks that Grybauskaitė has become more active in the public space because of the turbulent geopolitical situation demands it.
“She is a Lithuanian patriot, a former head of state. The moment is really not funny. We could die. <…> This is a moment when she cannot remain silent, especially if she sees that those in power are making mistakes,” the political analyst told tv3.lt.
V. Dumbliauskas notes that Valdas Adamkus also comments on events in Lithuania and has been doing so since the end of his second term in office, so it is not surprising that D. Grybauskaitė has taken on the role of an evaluator of processes.
“It is completely understandable. What to do in retirement? She is relatively young, healthy, energetic and sporty. Now to sit and grow flowers?” – laughed the MRU associate professor.
“It would be strange if she kept quiet,” he added.
In his opinion, Grybauskaitė’s speeches brighten up the sometimes dull life of Lithuanian politics.
“She adds salt and pepper to the food. Our politics sometimes seems so boring, so she spices it up a bit”, said Dumbliauskas.
Would it be like Putin and Medvedev?
“She is clearly preparing [for the presidential election]. Of course, all kinds of force majeure can happen. This is the conservative candidate unequivocally. They don’t have a man to put forward. They are always looking for someone who could be their Dalia. Still, there is no other Dalia,” Bernardas Ivanovas, associate professor at Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) and political scientist, told the news portal tv3.lt.
The political scientist believes that the success of D. Grybauskaitė’s successful performance in the 2024 presidential elections could create a wave of success that could be used by the ruling conservatives in the parliamentary elections to be held in the same year.
“That could be the strategy”, he said.
However, in Ivanova’s opinion, Grybauskaitė’s third term as President would discredit Lithuanian democracy and remind us of the period in Russia when Dmitry Medvedev briefly replaced Vladimir Putin, but then Putin returned.
“Of course, our tall and handsome one is not Medvedev and not Grybauskaitė’s friend, who could keep the chair”, the interlocutor quipped.
He may not come because of holidays and protection
At the same time, V. Dumbliauskas doubts that Grybauskaitė will wade into the same river a third time.
“Her statements should certainly not be linked to a desire to win a third term. Then questions would arise as to whether the Constitution allows it”, he said.
However, according to V. Dumbliauskas, Grybauskaitė would not try to become President again because of her personal life.
“She has worked for ten years without holidays. She used to stress that she doesn’t take holidays in the summer. That’s ten years of hard work. <…> Also round-the-clock security. Think about it, strangers in your bedroom every day and so on”, he said.
However, as the political analyst admitted, the intrigue about Grybauskaitė’s candidacy could remain for a long time.
“Let’s remember 2009 when she also dragged her feet for a long time before announcing that she would run. She tried to create intrigue”, Dumbliauskas said.
She won’t go from Olympus to the Seimas
The interlocutors doubted whether Grybauskaitė would agree to return to domestic politics not only through Daukantas Square but also, for example, through the Seimas or the Government.
“There have been talks about her being number one on the list of the Patriotic Union, but I find this option unlikely, as she would certainly not want to be associated with any political force. Moreover, she has maintained such neutrality over these ten years. <…> It would be like descending from Mount Olympus, from a high hill to a low hill,” said Dumbliauskas.
“The calibre would be too small for her. <…> You have to understand that this is psychology. A person who has been a president will never be a minister or a member of parliament. The ambitions are higher”, said Ivanov.
Doubts Grybauskaitė’s international career chances
D. Grybauskaitė’s name has been mentioned several times when talking about positions in international institutions. For example, the former President has been named as a candidate for a post in the European Commission, possibly even to head it, and Grybauskaitė has also been mentioned as a possible contender to replace Jens Stoltenberg as NATO Secretary General.
However, Mr Ivanovas questioned whether Ms Grybauskaitė had a realistic chance of grabbing a more serious leadership position in the international political arena.
“I think that there were not many chances and prospects. There are candidates of their own, not from our wing, especially since we are not very trusted. We are neither Norway, Portugal, nor the Netherlands. Small countries do not equal small countries. We are on that train, but we are in the last carriage. The Benelux countries, for example, are small cars, but they are at the front of the train”, said the VMU associate professor.
However, a representative of the ruling party claimed to the news portal tv3.lt that Grybauskaitė had a chance to become the President of the European Commission in 2019. According to Grybauskaitė, the former President was seriously considered, but in the end, her candidacy was dropped because Grybauskaitė did not intend to join the European People’s Party. According to the politician, this was the main reason why D. Grybauskaitė’s candidacy for the presidency of the European Commission. The post was eventually filled by Ursula von der Leyen, the former German Minister for Defence, who belonged to the European People’s Party.
Does Europe need a leader like Grybauskaitė?
At the same time, V. Dumbliauskas believes that the world needs leaders like Grybauskaitė. Although, at first sight, it would seem that more moderate rhetoric would be needed for top positions in international organisations and that the former President’s harsh statements could damage her international career prospects, the political scientist believes that the geopolitical situation is changing everything at the moment.
“If it weren’t for the idiotic war that Putin started, then maybe that diplomacy would be a virtue. But now that we can die through such Macrons and Scholars, that stronger rhetoric is important. Europe needs decisive leaders, and there are none,” said Dumbliauskas.
“Europeans have not yet felt that death is near them. Maybe when they start firing missiles at Berlin, they will wake up”, he added.