Which populists will make use of the door accidentally opened by Nausėda?

Remigijus Žemaitaitis
MP Remigijus Žemaitaitis DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

Every Seimas elections bring new, non-traditional political parties into public view. And while some of these political movements often are laughable and might be hard to take seriously, sometimes these parties take sway over voters’ hearts and celebrate victories in elections. Which political parties will manage in 2020 to make use of the “welfare state” vision popularised by President Gitanas Nausėda and become the voters’ favourites Monika Kasnikovskytė, asks in tv3.lt?

Before 2008, show business figures gathered into the National Resurrection Party before the Seimas elections, in 2012, the Seimas elections featured the Path of Courage party, in 2016, the Anti-Corruption Coalition of N. Puteikis and K. Krivickas tried its luck in the elections and next year’s Seimas elections, we will see at least five non-traditional political parties.

Among them we find the Centre Party “Gerovės Lietuva” [Welfare Lithuania] being led into the elections by Naglis Puteikis, Kristupas Krivickas and Rūta Janutienė, Rimantas Jonas Dagys’ Christian Union “Santarvė ir Gerovė” [Harmony and Welfare], Vytautas Radžvilas’ National Union, Arvydas Juozaitis’ Santalka Lietuvai [Gathering for Lithuania] and the so-far unnamed movement of Remigijus Žemaitaitis, Artūras Paulauskas and Artūras Zuokas.

Wide-open door for new populists

Nevertheless, the non-traditional powers, which are not all that numerous will only gather non-traditional and not many votes, Lauras Bielinis, a professor at Vytautas Magnus University, predicts.

“Their problem will be to reach the bar, which is required to enter Seimas. It is a major challenge for all non-traditional political powers nowadays. Another problem they face is that they are all very much alike and will fight more with one another than really with their competitors – the large parties,” L. Bielinis told tv3.lt.

Currently, a 5% bar for parties and 7% bar for coalitions applies in the Seimas elections.

Nevertheless, sometimes non-traditional powers (new populists) can celebrate more significant or smaller victories in the elections. Several such parties earlier benefited from an image of fighters for justice, however now, L. Bielinis believes that this image has been spent.

“Practically, the fight for justice is so spent nowadays that you can’t convince voters that you are a fighter for justice or more so one than others. Voters react to unexpected stimuli. Valinskas’ party [the National Resurrection Party] featured fun guys and gals you saw on the TV for years, they received votes for the fun of it and so they passed. Their victory is nothing unexpected. Just that long years of non-political work yielded them the advertising and image that received votes,” the professor noted.

Old wolves

Among political party leaders intent on participating in the 2020 Seimas elections, there are several old political wolves. However, even experience in politics might not necessarily bring them success, L. Bielinis notes.

“I believe it won’t work out. Of course, they will try, each one on their path, each one trying to organise an electoral campaign of their own. The older voters will recall them for their past work, imagery and this is not a positive, instead typically a critical view. As for the younger voters, they will be completely uninterested because they are not familiar and unknown,” the professor explained.

Public relations specialist Arijus Katauskas reminds that during every election period, a small part of voters seek new or new-old saviours, new populists and faded politicians exploit this. Namely due to this, A. Katauskas does not dismiss the possibility that in the next Seimas elections, at least a few politicians will return from political oblivion.

“Yes, you can talk about protest votes. But, every politician, under certain circumstances still has chances to gather enough votes in a certain narrow audience that they might manage to enter Seimas. And there they will have some decision making power or opportunity to rise as if a phoenix from the ashes, take senior posts – we’ll see,” A. Katauskas told tv3.lt.

It is clear that after the 2019 presidential elections, Gitanas Nausėda’s concept of the “welfare state” became popular. This can be seen reflected in the names of several new political powers. However, L. Bielinis believes that excessive repetition of the welfare motif not only will not help new political powers but will even hamper them.

All new populists for welfare

“Just the fact that they, one after another, keep repeating the same word as if some spell shows that these political parties’ leaders and organisers lack imagination, creative strength, which would allow them to stand out. Thus indeed, the use of the word “welfare” won’t help them, it will be more of an obstacle because voters will wonder, how does one welfare differ from another. It won’t vary though,” the professor noted.

He is echoed by A. Katauskas, who points out that the president may have popularised the concept of “welfare state”, it was not filled out with content.

“It was not filled out with content, thus granting the opportunity for all politicians to contribute with their content, that is to say – to explain to people, what a welfare state is. We see that the concept of “welfare state” is being used by both traditional and influential politicians, but also by absolutely populist figures,” he commented.

As such, A. Katauskas predicts that during the Seimas elections next year, the “welfare state” will be among the dominant motifs because it sounds appealing and people can place in it their very different wishes and expectations.

“Unless we see someone bring out very aggressive rhetoric, populist content, which will be charged into this whole package, but fails to receive any reaction from other political figures. But yes, in my opinion, this motif has become even anecdotal, factually wasting any serious added value it may have,” A. Katauskas spoke.

The Seimas elections are due in October 2020.

You may like

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.