Kęstutis Girnius. All the presidential candidates cause concern

Kęstutis Girnius
DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

The president is the head of state in Lithuania, the first person in the country, who has more influence on citizens’ lives than any other in the country.

It is an incredible responsibility, thus the question arises, how a person can believe they are the best candidate for this most important office.

How do presidential candidates view themselves? They must think of themselves and their abilities incredibly well, even if unconsciously because how would you otherwise explain their decision to candidate. They would not run for president if they did not believe they can lead the country better than others.

Without immense self-confidence, without arrogance and a good deal of vanity, a person would not aim for the highest post in the country. Thus, all presidential candidates cause concern, even her, who I will likely vote for.

People are inclined to think well of themselves. There exists a deep-rooted inclination, nay a demand to overvalue oneself and one’s talents, appropriate special abilities. Based on one survey, 94% of professors believe that they are better professors than the majority of their colleagues. A survey of a million students has shown that they all believe they had above average abilities to get along with others and a quarter were convinced that they are in the top one percent. This inclination is certainly not alien to politicians.

Those seeking the highest office in the country likely imagine they have exceptional leadership skills. If they did not see this, they would not even consider their candidacy. From where does such self-confidence stem from?

Are all the candidates top scorers, best students, held to be the top of their area of expertise? Clearly not. The highest state offices have been occupied and thus also pursued by figures not blessed with any exceptional talents.

Having finished her studies, D. Grybauskaitė was not invited to lecture at Moscow or Vilnius University and had to settle for a job at a Vilnius high party school, thus a low-level propaganda technical school. Her professional career only soared when A. Brazauskas invited her to be his finance minister.

V. Adamkus was most notable as an organiser of US Lithuanian basketball players’ excursions to South America and Australia and an émigré political activist. You could count on one hand the émigrés, who viewed the future president as an especially prominent figure.

R. Paksas was a good pilot, thus he had courage, but that was all. No more exceptional are some of the US presidents. In his youth, George W. Bush was, in his own words, a regular student and liked girls and whiskey, was not notable as a businessman.

Surveys show that G. Nausėda is the most popular presidential candidate. Say that he is a good economist and a specialist of his area. But why does he believe he would be a better president than the others?

Even if a person is the best student in their class, it does not mean they are suited to leading. Many of the most capable scientists are specialists in narrow topics, their knowledge and understanding of other matters is average, often distorted by preconceptions.

It is not easy to turn theoretical knowledge into practice, which is displayed by capable political scientists failing to explain day-to-day politics.

Thus, in their youths and early professional careers, many of the future candidates were neither more capable, nor more cunning than others, but they still believe that they can lead the country. Where do such ambitions stem from and is this not a portrayal of pure vanity?

Perhaps the future candidate knows their flaws and weaknesses, knows that they do not have enough advantages and desired abilities to be president, but seeing their rivals, arrives at the conclusion that they are even less suited to be president.

This, more objective evaluation of oneself, is a step forward, but it is only modest. Such a person has only a minimal grasp on their inclination to think well of themselves. Yes, I am not without flaws, but I am still above my even more flawed colleagues. Thus, they continue to believe that they relatively still believe that they are incredibly qualified to be president.

It may seem that I am mocking presidential candidates by presenting them as vain and arrogant. Supposedly, it isn’t personal, selfish reasons that make people run for president, but the desire to help their homeland, ensure its security and welfare of its people, accomplish certain ideals and turn the vision of a better Lithuania into reality.

While politicians are not solely noble, relentless fighters for others’ welfare, ideals are not foreign to them. But a person intent to run for this office believes that they can better than others uncover those ideals, win the support of the people and other politicians.

Perhaps they believe that their vision is more appealing, would more satisfy the nation’s expectations than those of others. Perhaps they do not view themselves the sole author of the new vision, admit that others contributed to forming it more, but they are nonetheless convinced that they will accomplish them more successfully.

However much they try to stay modest, try to recognise others’ contributions, however much they hold the future presidency as service to the nation and humanity, summa summarum they view themselves an irreplaceable demiurge of the good life. The arrogance does not vanish.

Not all candidates must think they are especially qualified. There are those more cynically inclined, who view the abilities and work of their predecessors with scepticism. Apparently, a number of completely average figures have been president and they did not ruin the country during their term or radically deteriorate matters. If such people could be president, then why can’t I, one like them, without special abilities do so too, they wonder.

There is also another possibility. The candidate wishes to highlight problems the public is ignoring. Becoming a candidate grants them and the likeminded a tribune to raise these questions and discuss them more seriously.

Such a candidate could be without great personal ambitions, can understand that they will lose, perhaps they are running convinced by friends that they can encourage the public to take interest.

The ideal variant would be a modern day Cincinnatus, who when Rome was under great threat was declared dictator, crushed the enemy and returned to his farm after sixteen days.

Unfortunately, contemporary problems cannot be solved in a single glorious victory within a day. The term of president lasts five years, thus the contemporary Cincinnatuses would have to work hard for their homeland for a lot longer.

And thus, they cause concern.

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