Toward the elections with popular figureheads: pointing out an emerging crisis

Seimas
The Seimas - DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

The party leader is not the person to lead it into the elections. Not only the election favourites, the “Farmers” and Conservatives are looking to engage in the struggle for seats in Seimas this way but also certain other political powers. This once again serves as confirmation for murmurs about a leadership crisis within the parties, Vytautas Bruveris, in lrytas.lt.

Twenty-two parties and 282 candidates they have nominated – this is the line-up preparing at the starting line of the Seimas 2020 elections, following the conclusion of political campaign participant application gathering by the Central Electoral Commission (VRK). Another 28 individuals decided to participate in the elections independently and gather voters’ signatures themselves.

Most current members of parliament are looking to return to Seimas for next term – even those who previously declared they would be retiring from politics.

Those intent on pursuing a Seimas seat without party support and gather signatures independently can still present declaratory documents to the VRK up to the beginning of August.

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Meanwhile, parties, having registered as participants of the electoral campaign, have registered as representatives also those who will be their candidates in the single-mandate electoral districts. Furthermore, most parties have also approved their electoral lists for the multi-mandate electoral district.

Nevertheless, what is most eye-catching is that a part of the political parties have chosen not their leaders as the engine of their campaigns, but non-partisan figures.

Ratings – not for everyone

That non-partisan Ingrida Šimonytė would be the headliner of the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats’ list, having been their presidential candidate, was unveiled already in spring.

The flag bearer of the ruling Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, was reticent far longer about participating in the list, but finally, in summer, the party council officially confirmed he would be the headliner.

Both Conservatives leader Gabrielius Landsbergis and “Farmer” leader Ramūnas Karbauskis remain second in their respective lists. Furthermore, the chairmen have not permitted their fellow members to rate them alongside the rest.

So far, it is not fully clear whether these two politicians will also compete in the single-mandate electoral districts, despite pledging to do so.

G. Landsbergis has stated he will run in Kaunas, in the Centre-Žaliakalnis electoral district, the party has also decided to nominate him there. However, so far, his name is not yet among the candidates that the Conservatives have registered with the VRK in the single-mandate districts.

R. Karbauskis has also promised to run for Seimas in the same place he won his seat in 2016 – in Kaunas. However, it is still uncertain what district he will do so – if he will at all.

I. Šimonytė plans to run in the capital’s Antakalnis single-mandate district, while S. Skvernelis – the capital’s Pilaitė-Karoliniškės district.

The reasons why the leaders of the main political powers have not stepped up to the first position of their respective lists and have prevented ratings from influencing their top two positions are clear.

In public opinion polls, both R. Karbauskis and G. Landsbergis are among the most disliked politicians, while S. Skvernelis and I. Šimonytė – among the most popular.

Furthermore, both parties contain significant discontent with their leaders. This is also indicated by the party list rating results, which the leaders had the opportunity to adjust.

Tension between two wings

A confrontation has long festered and continues to grow stronger in the Conservatives’ ranks between the so-called Christian democrat camp, notable for its more radical right-wing ideology, and G. Landsbergis’ supporters who are accused of betraying traditional values, poisoning the party with extreme liberalism.

After rating, the third and fourth place were handed to namely the leaders of the first camp – members of Seimas Laurynas Kasčiūnas and Paulius Saudargas. The first is even mentioned as a potential chief rival to G. Landsbergis in competing for the party chairmanship.

The top ten features a few other Christian democrats after the ratings. The party leadership only made minor adjustments to the listing – P. Saudargas was pushed to fifth place, while G. Landsbergis’ faithful ally Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė was lifted to fourth place.

That said, some among the Conservatives assert that the rating results do not reflect the real balance of power – apparently, L. Kasčiūnas and his like-minded company do not actually have broad support and only accrued rating points because they actively campaigned for themselves in the party branches.

Pleasing the loyal

Meanwhile, the “Farmer” list’s top fairly clearly reflects that R. Karbauskis, despite rebellious moods within the party, maintains a firm grip on the party and can punish the discontented by pushing them downward far more resolutely than G. Landsbergis.

The “Farmer” list’s top ten is completely dominated by R. Karbauskis loyalists within the party, this including even those who have remained unknown at the national level despite being in government for four years.

For example, fourth place, after Minister of Healthcare Aurelijus Veryga, who is in fourth, features member of Seimas Aušrinė Norkienė. This politician was elected in Tauragė and she is R. Karbauskis’ first deputy. According to party members themselves, such recognition was earned through loyalty to the leader.

After Tomas Tomilinas, who previously sought to be one of the party’s rebels, we also see members’ of R. Karbauskis’ personal entourage in Seimas – Eugenijus Jovaiša, Agnė Širinskienė, Valius Ąžuolas, Guoda Burokienė, Jonas Jarutis.

Meanwhile, one of the leader’s critics, a party veteran and first Seimas Vice Speaker Rima Baškienė has been pushed to 12th place.

What is curious is that most of the cabinet members – both ministers and members of the prime minister’s personal team – have landed in the top twenty or thirty. For example, cabinet chancellor Algirdas Stončaitis is 13th and vice chancellor Lukas Savickas – 16th.

Ministers of environment and social security and labour Kęstutis Mažeika and Linas Kukuraitis are 17th and 18th respectively. Then, up to the very end of the top fifty, you find almost exclusively current members of Seimas.

Minister surprises

Among the political powers, which will be led into the elections not by their chairmen, we also find the ruling Lithuanian Social Democratic Labour Party.

As number one of their list, Social Democrat Labour have tapped Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius. This is natural – this politician is a more popular figure than most of the party’s figures combined.

The party leader, Seimas Vice Speaker Gediminas Kirkilas is placed as second and Seimas Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Juozas Bernatonis is in third.

However, most political experts were surprised by how L. Linkevičius not only agreed to run for election but to also be the flag bearer of a party he essentially only formally represented.

This is because, in political couloirs, it has long been discussed how the minister is looking to take the office of Lithuanian ambassador following the elections, perhaps in the United States.

On the other hand, this could still be the case because looking at public opinion polls, Social Democrat Labour will have to work very hard to enter Seimas.

Furthermore, the “Farmers” unexpectedly terminated an agreement of offering them support in certain single-mandate districts upon being irked by how their partners refused to back them in certain votes in Seimas.

Not risking a mandate

Another candidate to participate in the government puzzle after the Seimas elections is the Labour Party. It has left its chairman Viktor Uspaskich as a member of the European Parliament but officially declared him a prime minister candidate.

It is clear that V. Uspaskich did not want to risk his MEP mandate, which he would have to abandon if he were elected to Seimas. As such, he left headlining to the somewhat forgotten former Minister of Agriculture Virgilijus Jukna.

The Labour list is also dominated by old and loyal to V. Uspaskich figures remaining in the party, including former member of Seimas Vytautas Gapšys.

From among individuals unrelated to politics, perhaps the most notable in the list is former Klaipėda Neptūnas centre Simas Galdikas. The Labour Party intends to nominate him in Klaipėda.

Leftist leader – into the fire

The opposition Social Democrats do not conceal their major ambitions for the coming Seimas elections, but they have acted unlike the “Farmers”, Conservatives, Social Democrat Labour and Labour – party chairman Gintautas Paluckas has been chosen to lead the party electoral roll.

A risk can be perceived here – this politician holds no office and furthermore has lost elections in a single-mandate district.

That said, it was also not possible to rate him either during the forming of the candidates’ list for his party.

The top ten is also dominated by party veterans and Paluckas loyalists. The second position on the list has gone to former Minister of Finance Rasa Budbergytė.

But there are also newer faces – member of Seimas Dovilė Šakalienė, who left the “Farmers” for the Social Democrats, also economist Romas Lazutka. The top twenty also includes former Green Party chairman Linas Balsys, who joined the leftists this term, and journalist Giedrius Drukteinis.

A Seimas veteran, Algimantas Salamakinas has decided to try his luck in the elections despite having publicly promised a number of times to no longer participate in politics.

Thus, the Social Democrats, viewed as among the main pretenders to participate in forming a new ruling coalition, have seemingly fulfilled promises made by G. Paluckas a number of times before to mostly base themselves on tested party cadres.

Will famous names help?

The Conservatives’ main companions and supporters if they manage to win the Seimas elections, the Liberals, seem to have gone a step too far in seeking decorations for their list.

The Liberal Movement list will be led into the elections by its chairwoman Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, second place goes to Neringa municipal council member Andrius Bagdonas, who rose after ratings, while in third is Seimas Speaker, former “Farmer” Viktoras Pranckietis.

When the Liberals officially invited V. Pranckietis to join them and he accepted the invitation, many observed that this step could prove detrimental for the party. While V. Pranckietis remains a fairly popular politician, most of the Liberals’ most loyal voters could be angered by the sheltering of this defector. This could harm a party, which has yet to recover from its potential corruption scandal.

The Liberals’ list features other notable names as well. For example, the top ten features members of Seimas Virgilijus Alekna, Eugenijus Gentvilas, famous political scientist Raimundas Lopata, protocol and etiquette expert Arminas Lydeka.

There’s also no lack of famous names in the Freedom and Justice party list. It was founded by the so-called three musketeers and they hold the top three slots, namely former Order and Justice party leader and the new party’s chairman Remigijus Žemaitaitis, former Vilnius Mayor Artūras Zuokas, former Seimas Speaker Artūras Paulauskas. By the way, this political power was registered as the Lithuanian Freedom Union (Liberals), but after formalities, it should be renamed as Freedom and Justice.

lrytas.lt

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