Skvernelis’ fight with prices may burn his ratings

Saulius Skvernelis
DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

Prices, those of food, heating and utilities are the primary issue of concern for the Lithuanian people. Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has reacted regarding this topic, which is sensitive to so many. Some say that this is good because the inadequacy of prices compared to income sizes cannot be denied. Others say that one should not promise what you cannot change, at least soon and noticeably. However, S. Skvernelis has already pledged that pensions will rise and children’s money will be provided, writes.

The prime minister has recently taken aim, according to his team, at making food product prices adequate, demonstrating assertiveness and resolve. Political scientists say that the currently convenient topic of prices could backfire on the prime minister’s ratings due to unsuitable communication.

An investigation by the data and research company Kantar TNS has revealed that the Lithuanian people prefer a leader, who is resolute, showing self-confidence, not necessarily justifiably, but definitely loudly. The prime minister is currently winning in this regard. There are many in Lithuania who want the government to take care of them, to be their carer and a politician, who portrays that they see the people’s problems, feel for them, sometimes only need just that – to express concern.

The average Lithuanian visits the store some 20 times a month. Similarly often as going to work. This was found by the market research company Nielsen, which states that the frequency is specifically due to pricing – people buy less because they aim for discounts.

Surveys confirm – welfare, how much you pay for what are what people are most concerned with.

“Prices are one of the most prominent problems. However you formulate it, prices are first,” head of Vilmorus, sociologist Vladas Gaidys confirms.

Prices have drawn the attention of the prime minister and his team. This question has overtaken the clashes on the budget and looming tax reforms.

S. Skvernelis declared his fight against prices at the end of summer this year and from then, the topic of prices has surfaced almost every week. Sometimes, political scientists state, it appears that the topic is artificially escalated. But it was not chosen accidentally, communications experts note.

“Traditionally, when campaigns are formed, surveys are made or analysis is performed on existing surveys, it is reviewed, what “hurts” for the people. Prices are, of course, a painful topic,” senior partner at INK Agency Kęstutis Gečas said.

Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) lecturer, political scientist Rima Urbonaitė also echoes this sentiment.

“People are of course concerned and worry over it. And who do they turn to first of all? To the government. Can it help in any way? And if a government can resolve such a major problem, then such a government will be thanked and thanked, perhaps paving a path, a successful path, to the next elections. I believe this escalation is not without reason,” the political scientist said.

The political scientist states that politicians often choose to speak on topics they feel they are strong in, can make a good showing, demonstrate leadership. Meanwhile, difficult topics, such as the recent scandal regarding children being taken from their parents, are avoided. Well targeted talks can significantly increase a politician’s popularity.

Sociologist V. Gaidys notes that the prime minister’s ratings have been stably positive for the past year. People see S. Skvernelis among presidential candidates as well in surveys despite him not declaring his stance on participating.

“At the moment the prime minister is third, let us see how things go for Gitanas Nausėda, Ingrida Šimonytė and S. Skvernelis in November. This is an important juncture that he is supported by those, who are concerned with those prices, those who count all these matters. This is their candidate,” V. Gaidys assures.

The prime minister himself says that the decisions being made right now are not linked to the nearing elections.

“Some sort of elections are always nearing. Currently it is the municipal elections nearing. But in the end, it should be evaluated based on if only the question is posed or if solutions are sought. The cabinet will finalise legislative projects in November and we will see that this has nothing in common with the elections,” S. Skvernelis explains.

Economists note that decreases in prices can be achieved, but this needs much time, several years. Public relations expert K. Gečas assures that people will not be patient for long. Furthermore, next year, electricity prices will rise, which automatically increases a part and often even all prices. From a convenient topic, prices could become a problematic one.

You cannot be sated on promises. R. Urbonaitė says that it will be difficult for S. Skvernelis to withdraw without achieving anything tangible. He has already put emphasis on prices being important and that he will deal with it.

“The topic of prices have now been brought into the, so to say, top three most popular problems, perhaps even to first place. Thus if they do nothing or fail, in other terms if people do not experience these decisions, this could prove to burn,” the political scientist notes.

K. Gečas observes that a strategy may be planned to portray S. Skvernelis as a fighter against prices.

“Perhaps such a strategy is being planned, (for the prime minister) to appear as a fighter against prices. This would be a rather populist path – to accuse others that they are hampering work and that you are seeking to do things, but unable and so on. This, however, is not a constructive, but a more populist path,” K. Gečas states.

Baltijos Tyrimai has announced that the prime minister’s ratings have dipped over the past month and the number of those negatively responding to S. Skvernelis are more numerous than those responding positively. Also according to the survey, S. Skvernelis has fallen out of the top ten most favourably rated politicians list. The number of those trusting in the cabinet also has. However, the head of Vilmorus, which will release its newest survey next week, points out that the prime minister is still more popular than the cabinet itself and many ministers.

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