Lithuania turns right or what to expect in the second presidential round

Mindaugas Norkevičius
Mindaugas Norkevičius, @VDU

Lithuania turns right and for the first time, sociological surveys can celebrate victory. Meanwhile, the representatives of the political right are regaining strength in Lithuania’s large cities and this is likely a clear trend to be seen in the coming European Parliament elections and next year’s Seimas elections.

A signal is being sent to the political left that its situation in Lithuania is difficult. The breakaway Social Democrat Labour only stands a chance in single-mandate districts during the Seimas elections. The gradually vanishing political left in Lithuania looks the same as the now longstanding political system in Poland, which is dominated by a conservative and a liberal party. The large cities, which changed the preliminary results by choosing Ingrida Šimonytė are posing a dilemma for the candidate – how to maintain positions and how to manage to shift to the smaller cities of Lithuania within two weeks.

Gitanas Nausėda is dominant in the rest of Lithuania and in Klaipėda, thus by trying to shift attention to the major cities, he could lose position in the regions. Everything depends on what strategies the two candidates will choose for the second round. We can expect both candidates will seek to demonstrate independent and well-argued narratives, without shovelling unmeasured and baseless promises.

Presidential portrait and new choices

By the choice of the Lithuanian people, the choice in the presidential elections is from educated, financially literate and able to speak foreign languages candidates. When comparing the candidates’ educations, G. Nausėda surpasses Ingrida Šimonytė, economics doctorate and master’s degree respectively. She knows English, Russian, Polish and Swedish, meanwhile her rival knows English, German and Russian. When looking at future prospects, Ingrida Šimonytė looks a bit more solid with her knowledge of a Scandinavian, two neighbouring and one international, working language.

Both candidates seek to demonstrate their independence, individuality and uniqueness. However, I. Šimonytė may be hampered by the TS-LKD and particularly Vytautas and Gabrielius Landsbergis’ support. Party affiliation and support is beginning to gain a negative response in Lithuania, but let’s look at other states, particularly the USA, where support can be deciding in a presidential bid.

Both candidates are demonstrating their desire to attract the remaining 37.42% of voters. Saulius Skvernelis’ votes are especially alluring – both second round participants have declared that they could work with him as prime minister and remarked that he doesn’t have to resign. Such moderate talks demonstrate a desire to attract these voters to their own sides.

In terms of foreign policy, which should be the core axis of the presidential elections because this is the area our head of state represents, their positions are near identical – deeper integration with the EU, greater cooperation in the NATO format, strict stance on Russia. Both candidates would choose Poland for their first foreign visit, symbolising the country’s future direction in terms of foreign policy.

On one hand, there is finally attention to neighbours and strategic partners. On the other hand, it is a question if we will be able to have the same relations with Poland as Valdas Adamkus had or the same connections to Germany as Dalia Grybauskaitė had. Ingrida Šimonytė‘s political experience and work in the Council of Europe somewhat implies the candidate’s better preparedness and familiarity with the system.

Gender may be decisive

Second round turnout may be somewhat lower than it was in the first. You could make the assumptions that voters will not flock to diplomatic representations as actively because the question of the dual citizenship referendum will no longer be under discussion. When you sum up the choices of those voting abroad, I. Šimonytė was the absolute leader, thus with fewer voting abroad, this will not add votes that proved decisive for the candidate taking first place in the first round.

Social Democrat representative Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis’ stance in speaking up against both candidates, implying that he will perhaps just spoil his ballot, has most likely confused the party’s voters. However, when considering statements on social policy, which is important to those of social democratic views, I. Šimonytė is well ahead of her rival because of detailed discussion of various facets of policy: from gender equality to social policy.

Part of Social Democrat, Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania voters, who added up to 9% in the first round, could reach Gitanas Nausėda. Simply the gender factor could be the reason – the desire to support a male candidate. The most confused are probably supporters of the Liberal Movement because both candidates match their values. Positions emerging in the public sphere that I. Šimonytė‘s weakness is her lack of a family are baseless because in holding the highest state office, this becomes a sort of strength, rather than weakness.

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