He has been in office for three years now, but people still disagree – has he finally got used to the role or not yet? That was the impression given by this week’s anniversary of President Nausėda’s third year of term in office, Vytautas Bruveris wrote in lrytas.lt news portal.
Two key questions to focus on such occasions are: how has the President managed to deliver on his key election promises, and how much of a political figure has he become?
As an economist, Nausėda‘s most enticing promise during the election campaign was to create a welfare state and to unite the country by bringing everyone to the same table.
However, that welfare state is still in the mists of time because the author of the idea himself has not put forward any clear, comprehensive action plan. Instead, there have been only fragmentary initiatives.
The promise of being an uniter and claiming to be the main political authority became even more distant. The President soon became as much a patron of the traditional political jungle as its old inhabitants. In other words, he tried to consolidate his position through the usual power games and sudden manoeuvring according to the winds of public sentiment and emotion. And because of his political inexperience and ambition, he has often done so in a very straightforward manner, thus putting his own foot down.
This is what has led to the considerable swings in Nausėda‘s ratings.
However, on this front, the most outstanding achievement of the country’s leader can be seen – staying at the top of the ratings, or rather, returning to them. Both sociologists and most experts agree that the main reason for this is the very authority of the office of the President in the eyes of citizens.
Moreover, with the end of the epidemic restrictions and the war in Ukraine in full swing, he has been able to dive into the arena that many believe is most suited to the presidential mantle – representing the country on the international podium.
In short, Nausėda can continue to spit on the ruling party together with the opposition, build up his strength for the forthcoming elections and prepare for a second term as the main favourite.
The Head of State’s talk that he is not preparing for a second term sounds unconvincing. After all, the fact that he was waiting for the end of Grybauskaitė‘s second term to take her place was evident from the beginning of his political career.
Ironically, just this week, another signal has been sounded that Grybauskaitė may be the one to block Nausėda’s path to a second term in office. The former head of state has unprecedentedly lashed out at the incumbents, who have suffered a crushing defeat on the frontline of the war against the Kremlin regime.
On Wednesday, the European Commission (EC), after a long period of foot-dragging, nevertheless published updated guidelines on how Lithuania should deal with the transit of EU-sanctioned Russian goods to the Kaliningrad region. The transit of sanctioned goods and technologies of a military nature or of dual-use remains prohibited. Still, the transit of goods for internal use in Kaliningrad and goods that do not exceed the average flows of the last three years through the territory of Lithuania is allowed.
Government and ruling party leaders have tried to see the announcement of such guidelines, if not as a victory, then at least as an unprecedented event. As a result, the EC has set rules that are binding on all EU countries; everything will be controlled, there is no return to the pre-sanctions regime or special corridor, and goods that do not pose any immediate danger are allowed.
It is also explained that this is also due to behind-the-scenes manoeuvring by our diplomacy – that is to say, Brussels was inclined to slip up even more against Moscow, but Vilnius did not allow it.
This time, President Nausėda also sang in unison with the Government. Clearly, he has consistently portrayed himself as a key player on the European Union-Western front.
The opposition, of course, is once again shouting that these guidelines are proof that the Lithuanian Government has acted arbitrarily in stopping transit from the outset, has been a pariah throughout the EU and has caused geopolitical tensions.
That is why the Social Democrats and ‘vardanlietuviai’ (Editor – Vardan Lietuvos: In the name of Lithuania) are demanding, at the very least, the resignation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Landsbergis.
But the ruling party insists that the West (more correctly, Germany and even the US), frightened by Russia’s hysterical threats, put him in the bushes. And some representatives of the ruling Liberal Movement have said the same thing as most political experts – that Lithuania has capitulated, that the Government has once again failed to prepare for the crisis, and that when caught by it, it has behaved as if it had fallen out of a tree.
The loudest voice in this chorus of criticism was that of Grybauskaitė. She lamented that the Lithuanian Government had danced a ‘kinkadrebio partiją’ (Editor – Feet shaking party) in an unfortunate ballet and once again demonstrated its inability to think strategically.
More recently, the pensioner has also been slamming Nausėda over the transit crisis, even going so far as publicly expressing suspicions that her predecessor was making some kind of policy.
It should be noted that the former President has now hit out at the right-wing, which has always been her closest ally.
Moreover, they hint that Grybauskaitė could be their favourite in the presidential elections. So how can we view this kick in the teeth?
Could it be that the former Head of State is preparing to return to active politics and that excessive association with the conservatives would damage her image as a ruler equal to all?
In any case, Grybauskaitė is increasingly involved in domestic political wars. And here, she will certainly not be a unifier or a peacemaker, but just another participant in those wars, just like her successor who tried to copy her.
But, as Nausėda recently said, accusing Grybauskaitė of imitating the right-wing patriarch Landsberg, the copy is always less successful than the original.