On presidential elections in Lithuania. Post-election two cents

Kęstutis Girnius
Kęstutis Girnius DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

It will take some time for experts to make detailed reviews of the Presidential elections results, thus I will take the opportunity to share some of my thoughts.

First of all, most of the surveys were accurate in their predictions that Gitanas Nausėda and Ingrida Šimonytė will gather far more votes than Saulius Skvernelis and that second rung candidates Vytenis Andriukaitis and Arvydas Juozaitis will only gather around five percent of the vote. This shows that surveying organisations have managed to perform an accurate cross-section of Lithuanian voters. No less important is that Lithuanian voters openly reveal their preferences and intentions, not concealing or intentionally distorting them.

This was not always the case. Surveys in 1992 claimed that the Sąjūdis would win a landslide victory, but it was met with a historic defeat. During the 2002 presidential elections, some of Rolandas Paksas’ voters did not reveal, who they would vote for. I did not dismiss the possibility that some of S. Skvernelis’ voters may be ashamed to admit that they intend to back him. I was mistaken. In the future we will be able to put more trust in sociologists’ predictions, but just as in life, there will be surprises.

Second, the impression arises that some voters voted strategically, due to which V. Andriukaitis and A. Juozaitis’ campaigns suffered. V. Andriukaitis is a flawless social democrat, a candidate that his party members should support with enthusiasm, but the Social Democrats won 13.24% of the vote during the municipal elections, as compared to V. Andriukaitis receiving only 4.79% of the vote in the presidential race.

Problems with Andriukaitis

I believe that part of the Social Democrats did not vote for V. Andriukaitis because they knew he was bound to lose, instead backing a candidate they may find less appealing, but one that has serious chances of reaching the second round. Voting for V. Andriukaitis in presidential elections was akin to spoiling the ballot. Such calculations were more weighty than primary preferences and party loyalty. I guess that similar strategic calculations may have reduced A. Juozaitis’ number of votes. Perhaps he is closer to some voters than the current Conservative party, which is only a shadow of V. Landsbergis and A. Kubilius’ party, but he did not have any serious chances to win, thus votes went to I. Šimonytė and perhaps G. Nausėda.

Third, the pre-electoral leap expected by some from V. Andriukaitis and A. Juozaitis did not emerge. Having spent five years in Brussels, Vytenis has grown distant to Lithuanian politics, spoke in general terms too often and did not always have specific proposals on specific problems. After the elections he announced he is returning to Lithuanian politics. Perhaps it may have been worth to first return to politics and only then run for a high office.

The flaws of A. Juozaitis’ campaign were both strategic and personal. The name of the gathering he organised, Lietuva Yra Čia [Lithuania is here] is a uniting one, focusing on Lithuania and its citizens, efforts to draw and return emigrants, halt migration instead of demonising immigrants, refugees and other foreigners. But he supports and defends his connections with the radical German AfD and declared a struggle against the usual enemies of populist parties – LGBT “propaganda” and genderism ideology, the Istanbul Convention. This has little in common with that thought that Lithuania is here and we must resolve its problems here.

Problems with Juozaitis

Already from the times of the Sąjūdis, A. Juozaitis has the inclination to feel insulted or get angry, after which he demonstratively withdraws. Having gotten angry at the LRT, he decided to no longer participate in debates, but later returned. After failure in the elections, he cancelled an expected press conference. That’s his right, but at the same time, it is irresponsible if he intends to run for Seimas.

Fourth, the big loser is R. Karbauskis, who promised three victories. He has now lost twice and there is no such likelihood that his party will fare well in the European Parliament elections. He interpreted the 2016 elections mistakenly. The results were not an unambiguous mandate from the nation, but a stroke of luck that in the second round they faced the then discredited Social Democrats and the oft hated Conservatives. An even greater mistakes was the attempt to mobilise voters with intimidation and threats, thus repeating the mistakes of the Sąjūdis in 1992. His explanations that S. Skvernelis’ third place “is not the result that the party should take as very bad” sound childish.

Problems with Skvernelis

Even if you increase votes that S. Skvernelis received by 50%, he would still not have reached the second round. A satisfactory result! He tried to paint the weak results of the municipal elections in similarly rosy colours. An even greater failure awaits in the European Parliament elections because the party’s electorate does not have anyone to vote for during the second round of presidential elections, leading to lower turnout among it. Instead of testing confidence in the party council, R. Karbauskis, as the main author of the electoral fiascos, should simply resign.

Fifth, it is still unclear whether the Conservatives have reached their support ceiling. Thus with I. Šimonytė receiving 31% of the vote in the first round seemingly shows that the Conservatives’ electorate has risen significantly. On the other hand, while I. Šimonytė is a party candidate and tied her political fate to the Conservatives a long time ago, she is able to maintain a distance between herself and the party, not be fully tied to it. Even if she wins the elections, it will not be clear whether the Conservatives breached their ceiling or just I. Šimonytė did.

Sixth, the second round will feature competition between an independent candidate and a semi-independent candidate. If I. Šimonytė were to win, experts would have to try and figure out whether the party’s support helped or harmed her, how many voted for her due to the Conservatives’ support and how many did despite Conservatives’ support. Seventh – what will S. Skvernelis do? If he departs the post of prime minister, his political career is seemingly over even though he is still fairly young. If he does remain in his post, he must realise that he is and will continue to be his own worst enemy until he manages to rein in his anger and his tongue. But there’s also another lesson. It is important to maintain independence and not blindly yield to the influence of another individual, namely R. Karbauskis.

You may like

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.