The presidential dream replaced by another – the defeated to storm Seimas

Mindaugas Puidokas
Mindaugas Puidokas, DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

After trying their luck in the presidential elections, Naglis Puteikis, Arvydas Juozaitis, and Mindaugas Puidokas are not giving up. The first two plan to unite their forces, while M. Puidokas plans to create a new political force for the Seimas elections in 2020. A political scientist contacted by the tv3.lt news portal says that the future of these movements is hazy, however, one of them has better prospects, Vilmantas Venckūnas writes.

In the first round of the presidential elections, A. Juozaitis received 4.73% of the vote, M. Puidokas – 2.61% and N. Puteikis – 0.8%.

Names not the most important

Lithuanian Centre Party chairman N. Puteikis aims to unite his forces with A. Juozaitis’ movement Lietuva Yra Čia [Lithuania Is Here] and to participate in the October 2020 Seimas elections. N. Puteikis told the tv3.lt news portal that the electorates of his party and A. Juozaitis are overlapping, thus they feel the need to unite.

“It is not named that are most important, but the demand of the public that politicians that represent them would unite,” the politician said.

According to him, this cooperation reflects public wants, so that there wouldn’t be a hundred small political powers, but instead several strong ones, representing specific groups of the public.

According to N. Puteikis, discussions with A. Juozaitis regarding cooperation are held almost every day, however, the politician could not specify, whether this grouping will enter the Seimas elections as a single party or as a coalition. N. Puteikis stated that he has not discussed potential cooperation with M. Puidokas. When asked if he will invite Lithuanian Centre Party frontrunner in the European Parliament elections Antanas Guoga to join them in the Seimas elections, he responded laconically.

“We will invite all those to whom the ideas of defending the public interest are acceptable,” N. Puteikis stated.

A few weeks ago, representatives of the movement being organised by A. Juozaitis Lietuva Yra Čia reported that it was decided to assemble a broad public-political movement and participate in the Seimas elections in 2020 under its banner.

Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) professor, political scientist Algis Krupavičius told the tv3.lt news portal that while N. Puteikis claims that his and A. Juozaitis’ electorates overlap, this isn’t strictly true.

Voters differ

According to the political scientist, N. Puteikis’ Lithuanian Centre Party voters are the protest vote and more overlap with the electorate of the Order and Justice party, while A. Juozaitis’ voters are more nationalistic and conservative.

“The key question is just how many such voters there are. So far, the potential number of voters, both in light of the presidential elections and European Parliament elections is definitely not large,” the VDU professor spoke.

According to A. Krupavičius, in creating a political entity, what is important is a clear programme, but it is currently unclear, what ideas could form the basis of A. Juozaitis and N. Puteikis’ union.

“Speaking of Juozaitis, the basis could be the main directions articulated during his presidential bid. As for the Centre Party, they did not really have any defined programme in the European Parliament elections. Overall, the mobilisation in the Centre Party is performed via concentration on individuals. At one point, it was Puteikis, he was appealing as a protest candidate,” A. Krupavičius mused.

The political scientist does not believe that Lithuanian Centre Party frontrunner in the European Parliament elections Antanas Guoga could join this political power in the lead-up to the 2020 Seimas elections.

“Guoga is ideologically foreign. He is a liberal, he was a rental single-use face, thus it is likely that the relationship with Guoga will be at an end,” the professor said.

According to him, A. Juozaitis and N. Puiteikis’ joint political power would not be particularly competitive against current political parties and would compete with protest parties and political powers revolving around conservative values.

Seeking a value-based movement

M. Puidokas stated that the political force being created by him is in the preparation stage.

“It is a complex task with public figures, civic electoral committees, intellectuals, people from the academic world. We want the movement to gain strength, to unite the parts of our public, which want serious changes in our country,” M. Puidokas spoke.

The politician said that he has been met with significant interest from individuals interested in joining the political power he is creating. According to Puidokas, those interested have been sent application forms to join the association Rytojaus Lietuva [Tomorrow’s Lithuania] that the politician created in 2014. Upon filling out the application, the individuals will be able to become members of the politician’s upcoming movement. M. Puidokas believes that rallying people and negotiating with various movements and public groups could take up to autumn at the very least.

During the presidential campaign, M. Puidokas mentioned professor Vytautas Radžvilas’ name a number of times. The candidate expressed desire, if he were to win the elections, for V. Radžvilas to join his team. The professor himself participated in the European Parliament elections alongside his own electoral committee, however, he did not win a mandate to travel to Brussels and Strasbourg. M. Puidokas explained that communications went between his team and V. Radžvilas throughout the election campaign and continue to be held.

“No decisions have been made so far of how to further cooperation could be performed. It is a little early to talk about it because the elections just wrapped up. Both they and we have to analyse the lessons of the elections and afterward, sitting down at the negotiations table, we have to think about our next steps,” M. Puidokas said.

Different values

The politician stated that he has not spoken about cooperation with N. Puteikis and A. Juozaitis, however, has interacted with members from their movements. The politician would like for his movement to be modern, defending traditional values and also attracting the youth. According to M. Puidokas, one of the main goals is a serious programme, which would be acceptable on a value basis for all participants of such a movement.

“It is very bad when people emerge in a political power, who are cardinally opposed with their values. Political entities, where such different people are found on the same roll, are doomed to pre-programmed disputes and fracturing,” M. Puidokas spoke.

According to the politician, he will strive to gather people and discuss with them, whether the values of his movement are acceptable to them.

“What is important now is that our actions are well directed. There is no reason to rush or race ahead, we try to work calmly,” M. Puidokas stated.

Other prospects

“His direction at least holds a little more prospect compared to Juozaitis and Puteikis’ choices. But there are more variables than answers in this. How everything will go is hard to tell today,” A. Krupavičius said regarding the prospects of M. Puidokas’ movement.

According to the political scientist, M. Puidokas is positioning himself as a social conservative. Conservative on matters of morals and more left wing in terms of economic questions. According to the professor, the demand for such politics in contemporary politics is displayed by the unwavering popularity of Jarosław Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party in neighbouring Poland.

“The niche of the so-called social conservatism is not empty in Lithuania either. It is claimed and partially occupied by the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, once upon a time Gediminas Vagnorius maintained such a position. I would say that social conservatism is an interesting appealing direction, which would have significant support in Lithuania, but there is already fairly fierce competition over it,” the professor spoke.

He remarked that M. Puidokas’ movement has better prospects than A. Juozaitis and N. Puteikis’ grouping. What would happen if the three politicians merged their groups into a single one though?

“This would all be based on speculation, […] but at that point [in case of a full merger], the answer would be more yes than no,” A. Krupavičius said when asked if M. Puidokas, N. Puteikis and A. Juozaitis’ union could enter Seimas.

The next Seimas elections are to be held on October 11, 2020.

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