Vladimiras Laučius. The new Nausėda: lessons from Grybauskaitė and compliments from Butkevičius

Vladimiras Laučius
DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

For two decades now, Nausėda has been Lithuania’s shadow president, who would constantly not run for president. Both Valdas Adamkus and Dalia Grybauskaitė have been heads of state for two terms, but neither of them has as much experience in presidency, even if shadow presidency.

Nausėda’s presidential aura is almost as long lasting and stable as Vytenis Andriukaitis‘. Just that Andriukaitis tried unsuccessfully a few times, while Nausėda, with a pause each time to make everyone wonder, said no.

This is a near ideal presidential campaign. Imagine: you have been the “president in words” to use an analogue to Plato’s state in words, have been constantly spoken to in public, but talking not as a candidate, but as an expert.

For more than a decade, for every birthday and New Year, one could wish to Nausėda: “May this year be presidential for you once again.”

There is a very specific group of users on Facebook, where its members post lyric quatrains and share their impressions of the sun, happiness and good moods, while sometimes also bringing up philosophical insights, which declare that evil is bad and they are “against,” while good is beautiful and they are “in favour.”

Under such insights, there is a flood of comments from a very specific category. Often – just pictures of happy laughing puppies, little mice dancing from happiness and cutely hugging kittens.

Sometimes, there’s also romantic sunsets with couples hugging in the background or cheerful birds with the annotation “Thank you! How beautiful!”

This crowd likes to wish one another good morning or good night, sometimes in poetic form.

All these good, goodness and good people’s verses, well wishes, sweets of kind words and images, all this this entire brain marmalade powdered with icing and with syrup on top is the audience of a candidate seriously aiming for the “common people.”

Yes, this audience wants something sweet. Something unoffensive, something that isn’t sharp, something eminent, good looking and proclaiming welfare and goodness with the best intentions. With his unoffensive, good intentioned image and programme of the “Welfare State”, Nausėda fits this audience just right.

Ingrida Šimonytė and Saulius Skvernelis are too sharp, too categorical and hard, insufficiently poetic, lyrical and aesthetic.

There is another category of Nausėda voters – people, who raise the bar of wisdom and knowledge, political leadership and purposeful discussion quite high, who care about experiencing moods less than hearing and critically evaluating opinions. They are impressed with the image and work experience of Nausėda as a famous publicly speaking expert.

They can be understood. However, considering this category of people, the bar should be raised higher than when considering the earlier discussed good folks, who want to see a good guy as president. The biggest problem of their choice is that in voting for Nausėda, they would choose a cat in a bag.

What are the candidate’s views? A centre-right economic liberal, who decided just before the elections that it is necessary to draw more to the centre and no longer bake, as he said himself, the cake of welfare, but also more actively share it, preferably – in equal shares.

But then a simple question arises – if a person turns from the liberal right to the socioeconomic centre with the elections nearing, where are the guarantees that upon becoming president, he will not once more turn to the right and will not forget about the socially just sharing of the cake? Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis appeared to be forgetting it at one point.

If a presidential candidate changed their face, who knows if after the elections a third face will not appear, which will no longer appeal to the good folks, who are now pleasantly lulled by his calm talks, nor those, who expect specific intellectual leadership from him?

For ten years, we had a president without political views, a catch-all candidate in the 2009 elections, who said that she partly accepts (Vytautas Landsbergis‘) conservatism, (Eligijus Masiulis‘) liberalism and (Algirdas Brazauskas‘) social democracy. A completely inedible mixture, but it worked!

She was a candidate without content, party or articulated ideological views, bar combatting Gediminas Kirkilas. Everyone, who wanted and could be bothered, could project on her their expectations, moods, opinions and illusions. This brought her incredible success in 2009. But such candidacy is pure manipulation.

And while many compare Nausėda with Adamkus, the bank economist, who has never been a politician is going less on the path of Adamkus and more of functionary Grybauskaitė. Trying to appeal to everyone, ignoring politics and political views from the summit of a bank analyst and presenting himself, in the words of Dalia Teišerskytė, as a national treasure on a white horse.

Nausėda surpasses Grybauskaitė in his moderation and intelligence. He is not alike a shallow, spiteful careerist and plotter, the manipulator of power structures and gossiper, who makes presidential conclusions and politics out of the morning gossip of ambitious girls on what, where, when and with whom.

However, so far Nausėda is almost nothing, about nothing and about everything as a politician. This serves his catch-all ratings, but does not reveal the content of political leadership. He is a product of political technologies and not the representative of time-tested political formations, which have an ideological direction, which formed voters’ opinions and thus allowed citizens to choose more rationally.

Skvernelis is inseparable from the “Farmers“, Šimonytė – from the Conservatives. This is a serious basis to evaluate, have serious arguments “against” and “in favour” of a candidate. In this regard, Nausėda is meandering who knows where.

That said, recently he had a meeting with former Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, commenting on which both spared no good words for one another and did not dismiss the possibility of cooperation and this could grant Nausėda’s electoral campaign some definition.

As lrt.lt reported, Nausėda confirmed that there is a chance that he could cooperate with the former prime minister during the elections. It turns out that Butkevičius would not shirk supporting Nausėda.

“To me, as someone with his personal values, an intellectual, who knows how to interact with the public, a simple, fair, decent person, he impresses me. If we are to have discussions on economic topics, G. Nausėda’s views are also acceptable to me,” the former PM admitted.

This could develop into a rather unexpected tandem or economists not only agreeing on fundamental questions, but also cooperating. Butkevičius’ compliments to Nausėda and the latter’s words about cooperation are a serious fact that this is not their first discussion about Lithuania, which reveals a developing partnership.

What unites them? For whom is the cooperation more beneficial? It is harder to discern Butkevičius’ interests because his plans are undefined.

Meanwhile, Nausėda clearly needs a recognised political face, who can draw the sympathisers of the former Social Democrat leader and, what is also important, fill the void of a political world view, which emerged when refusing to receive the support of the Conservatives.

Whatever Nausėda may say, the voters want a more tangible confirmation of political orientation than pretty words about welfare. They want to see the candidate’s associates. Butkevičius provides what Nausėda currently does not have: experience in politics and a political direction familiar to voters. What direction is it?

Last Seimas term, Nausėda agreed with Butkevičius on one politically especially significant matter – the necessity of the new Labour Code. It was met with controversy among the public, however the Investors’ Forum, employers’ associations and some experts praised it as progressive and necessary.

This is just one of likely many socioeconomic policy guideposts uniting the experienced politician and popular presidential candidate, which can both serve and harm them. Perhaps this is a chance for Nausėda.

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