One mistake and ratings and trust will plummet: political analysts warn two parties

Vilija Blinkevičiūtė
Vilija Blinkevičiūtė DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

The latest party and their leader ratings show slight changes in the tables. The Social Democrats remain the most popular, while the Lithuanian Famer and Greens Union have seen a drop. Political analysts say that now is a good time for the parties to showcase themselves and mobilise political support. However, they also send a warning to two parties, noting that if they make even the slightest mistake, their ratings could start to fall, Ugnė Paulauskaitė wrote in TV3.lt.

The results of a survey conducted by Baltijos Tyrimai on behalf of news agency ELTA were published on Wednesday. It shows that the Social Democrats continue to lead in the party ratings, while the Conservatives and the “Farmers” have remained unchanged for a second month.

Rima Urbonaitė, a political scientist at Mykolas Romeris University (MRU), says that this lull in the ratings is not for the better.

“A lull in the ratings, unfortunately, is a specific sort of result. It shows that there are no major shocks and that politicians could try to exploit the vacuum. […]

It has to be said that all the parties are in a pretty serious hole. The Social Democrats’ rating is still a bit inflated. Naturally, the parties have low popularity and their ability to attract voters is far from being something that anyone party should be proud of. Unfortunately, we bear witness to a general party politics crisis,” R. Urbonaitė summarises the latest ratings.

The Social Democrats remain in the lead: have they reached their ceiling yet?

According to the poll, the largest share of the population – 17.4% – would support the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP). The Social Democrats have not relinquished the lead for some time, a result also seen in September.

Political analyst R. Urbonaitė explains that the change in the party’s leader, when Vilija Blinkevičiūtė took over the helm, had a significant positive impact on the Social Democrats’ ratings. Positive changes have been observed since May.

Another reason, according to the expert, are the declining positions of other parties. For example, public confidence in the Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS) has fallen. The ratings of the ruling parties are also not particularly good.

“The “Farmers” and the Conservatives either were recently in power or are currently in power. The Social Democrats were in power some time ago, back in the 2012-2016 term. The Social Democrats are seen from the perspective of time, that they are not a party in power that has made mistakes in the recent past and has accumulated emotional negativity.

Not being in power for a while, and when it was, by the way, crises were avoided, the arrival of V. Blinkevičiūtė and the weakening of other parties. All this combines,” comments R. Urbonaitė.

Lauras Bielinis, a professor at Vytautas Magnus University (VDU), observes that the Social Democrats are demonstrating moderation and propriety in comparison to other political forces in this tense period. This may appeal to some of the population, so they are giving their sympathies to this party.

“They are not directly involved in solving problems, after all, they are an opposition political force – they will not be allowed in. But they have to express themselves in some way, and their insignificant talk is enough in terms of ratings. The Social Democrats have no influence on decision making today, so they are trying to maintain the image of a calm political force, which is working in their favour,” L. Bielinis commented on tv3.lt.

R. Urbonaitė adds that although there are reasons why the population likes the Social Democrats, they should not be fooled. The rating growth is currently stagnant, and it is possible that if they slip up, their ratings will start to fall.

“This means that any mistakes can now start to cost a lot, they need to be cautious, especially as we don’t yet have Saulius Skvernelis’ party in the ratings. When there is a line for it, it will be interesting to see what will happen in the ratings and how it will affect the Social Democrats’ ratings,” says Urbonaitė.

Falling ratings for the “Farmers” as a result of Skvernelis’ departure

According to Baltijos Tyrimai, the LVŽS had the support of 14.6% of the population in May, decreasing to 9.2% in October, which is one per cent less than in September.

Political analysts are unanimous in that the fall in the “Farmer” ratings was certainly influenced by the departure of Skvernelis and his comrades from the LVŽS.

“The formation of an alternative force creates a controversial perspective of the LVŽS itself. Many of their supporters are now somewhat lost, waiting. That is why they do not support the “Farmers”, but they do not yet see the political force Skvernelis was talking about either,” says L. Bielinis.

Bielinis says that the future ratings of the LVŽS will depend on how actively Skvernelis’ political force forms and how effectively it works.

Political analyst R. Urbonaitė also believes that the ratings of the LVŽS have been negatively affected by the departure of Skvernelis. According to her, Skvernelis took with him politicians who were of great importance.

However, Urbonaitė sees other reasons as well. The Social Democrats may also be to blame for the drop in ratings. The ratings of LVŽS started to fall around May when V. Blinkevičiūtė took the helm of the LSDP.

Another reason is the rhetoric of LVŽS. According to R. Urbonaitė, it may not appeal to all the voters of the “Farmer” party. In many cases, the party’s representatives make dubious statements.

“I really doubt that all the voters of the “Farmer” party accept what Dainius Kepenis or Valius Ąžuolas are doing. When you see the party chairman’s full support for these people, I don’t think that all the voters of the “Farmers” can be impressed by that.

The “Farmers” are playing a double game, they are trying striving to adapt, and so, when we see the crowd of people gathered in Vingis Park [refers to the Great Family Defence March] – we immediately see posters about how the “Farmers” are for the traditional family. We see that there are problems with vaccination issues, that there are people who have a different position – the “Farmers” are allowing members of their group to run amok by spreading falsehoods,” says Urbonaitė.

The ruling party, the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD), has exactly the same support as the “Farmers” (9.2%).

The Liberal Movement’s rating also remained unchanged, with 7.1% support in October and 7.6% in September.

“Freedom and Justice were supported by 6.8% in October, this rating remained mostly unchanged over the month.

The increase in support for the Labour Party is questionable

The Labour Party is next in the rankings. It is supported by 6.7% of the population, and according to the poll results, support for the Labour Party has slightly increased – in September it was 5.3%.

According to L. Bielinis, there have been no major changes in the agenda of the Labour Party, which could explain the increase in the rating, but some of the party’s voters, according to the specialist’s assessment, are “sleeping”. Therefore, a few speeches could have led to the rise in the rating.

“They [these voters] need to be woken up from time to time. I think that a few public appearances and speeches by Viktor Uspaskich have done their part. Therefore, we have a small increase, which will not be spectacular, but they will linger around the 5% threshold,” Bielinis said.

Political analyst R. Urbonaitė notes that 1% is within the margin of error. According to Baltijos Tyrimai, the possible margin of error could be as high as 3.1%.

“If we have 6.7% in October and 5.3% in September, we can’t even say that there is some kind of upswing. It may look like that mathematically, but because there is a margin of error, 6.7% could mean 4.7%.

I would say that the Labour Party is keeping the same ratings and I do not think that it can change for any reason. Uspaskich will continue doing what he has always done,” says R. Urbonaitė.

The bottom of the ranking table is occupied by the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Union (2.8%), the ruling Freedom Party (2%), and the Nation and Justice Union (centrists, nationalists) with 1.5% support. The Party of the Regions of Lithuania (1.3%) rounds out the list.

The two most favourably regarded leaders are Blinkevičiūtė and Žemaitaitis

According to the survey, only two party leaders are viewed more favourably than unfavourably by the citizens. The two leaders are V. Blinkevičiūtė, chairwoman of the LSDP, and Remigijus Žemaitaitis, chairman of Freedom and Justice. 55% of respondents have a positive opinion of V. Blinkevičiūtė and 30% have a negative opinion of her, while 50% have a positive opinion of R. Žemaitaitis and 31% have a negative opinion of him.

Political analysts say that the assessment of Ms Blinkevičiūtė is not surprising, as she represents the Social Democratic Party, which has high ratings.

“There has always been a fairly normal public attitude towards her,” comments L. Bielinis.

However, the reasons for Žemaitaitis’ high position in the ratings are somewhat subjective.

“His attempts to activate himself, to do more and to communicate more have had their effect. Žemaitaitis has tried several times recently to assess the ruling party and the situation in one way or another,” Bielinis muses.

R. Urbonaitė comments that R. Žemaitaitis’ ratings are not new – they have been like this for some time.

“R. Žemaitaitis knows what programmes to appear on, and he makes good use of his time during Seimas sessions. He chooses exactly where to be active, has a good idea of what will be seen, and is cunning. When you sit in the opposition, there are not many opportunities to make serious mistakes and receive serious criticism.

He is now in a perfect position to criticise others and he is tactical in choosing the time and place,” says Urbonaitė.

Armonaitė and Landsbergis are the most unfavourably perceived: one will never become Blinkevičiūtė, the other has a surname that gets in his way

The most unfavourably rated party leaders remain Aušrinė Armonaitė, leader of the Freedom Party, and Gabrielius Landsbergis, chairman of the TS-LKD. “According to Baltijos Tyrimai, 19% of the population have a favourable opinion of Landsbergis and 72% have an unfavourable opinion. Armonaitė is viewed favourably by 13% and unfavourably by 77%.

Political experts differ in their opinions on why these leaders have the lowest ratings. For example, R. Urbonaitė argues that Landsbergis is generally doomed to always have low ratings, as his surname has an influence on this.

Another reason is that Landsbergis represents the ruling party, so it is impossible to expect him to have higher ratings.

“There are certain nuances – whether he was in the opposition or in the ruling majority – his ratings are always bad. The only thing is that when you are in the ruling majority and there are crises and divisions in the country, we see that the balance is getting even worse,” Urbonaitė comments.

However, L. Bielinis believes that Landsbergis’ ratings are also influenced by his foreign policy.

“The majority of the public, which is critical of those in power, naturally focuses on leaders and ministers. On the one hand, the attitude towards Landsbergis is shaped by his actions and attitude towards Belarus. A very large number of people, I would not say that they sympathise with Mr Lukashenko, but I am sure that they are tense and that fear prevails in the atmosphere. Landsbergis’ rather harsh language towards Belarus seems to me to frighten them a little bit,” says L. Bielinis.

A. Armonaitė, according to political analysts, buffers the criticism of the Freedom Party regarding the decriminalisation of drugs and the partnership law.

“These are things that are still misunderstood and unacceptable in the majority of society. It delegates its incomprehension by depriving her of ratings,” says Bielinis.

R. Urbonaitė also believes that Armonaitė’s ratings are suffering because of the policies of the Freedom Party. According to the political scientist, Armonaitė is the leader of a party that takes niche positions on some issues. So it is natural that even before the elections, both the party and its leader had critics.

“It was already clear then that Armonaitė would never be V. Blinkevičiūtė. I think it is evident now – those issues were on the political agenda. Naturally. It is simply impossible to expect good ratings for Ms Armonaitė because there is no place for them to be born from,” says R. Urbonaitė.

According to the survey, all other party leaders have a negative rating of more than 50%, with the exception of J. Pinskus, who is rated favourably by 23% and unfavourably by 40% of respondents.

The leader of the ruling bloc, Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, is viewed favourably by 37% and unfavourably by 53%.

Other opposition leaders are also more likely to be viewed negatively. 29% of respondents have a favourable opinion of the chairman of the Labour Party, V. Uspaskich, while 55% have an unfavourable opinion. The leader of the “Farmer” party, R. Karbauskis, is viewed favourably by 27% of the population and unfavourably by 60%.

It’s a great time for parties to showcase themselves

A little more than a third (34.8%) of the respondents indicated that they would not participate in the Seimas elections or were undecided about who they would vote for. This is almost 3 percentage points more than a month ago.

Political analysts say that public indifference has always been felt. In the first round of the 2020 parliamentary elections, 47.2% of voters took part in the first round and 38.6% in the second.

“Some people do not participate because they simply do not understand what is going on and do not have a position. On the other hand, some people don’t find a political force they can trust. All political forces – both those in power and those in opposition – are clearly failing to convince voters who have doubts. That’s the result – they comprise almost a third of the population,” says L. Bielinis.

R. Urbonaitė says that undecided voters are a potential source of support for the parties.

“These are normal ratings and I think that if we see a significant increase in the number of undecided or non-participants, we could say that something more serious is happening. For now, everything is normal and these ratings do not offer any big surprises,” says Urbonaitė.

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