With Conservative – Christian Democrat Vygaudas Ušackas declaring his participation in the presidential elections, political scientists have been debating, whose electorate he will draw – Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis‘ or economist Gitanas Nausėda‘s, if either of the two chooses to run for president as well. Political scientist Mindaugas Jurkynas tells lrt.lt that V. Ušackas is aiming for the second round of elections and in it would have to decide, what strategy to employ and for whose electorate to fight, lrt.lt writes.
Having stoked passions for a long time, V. Ušackas declared last week that he would run in the spring 2019 presidential elections. Public opinion polls most prominently feature the following names: economist G. Nausėda’s, Kaunas Mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis‘, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis and conservative V. Ušackas’. S. Skvernelis and G. Nausėda have so far neither denied, nor confirmed their candidacies for the post of president. If these individuals did choose to aim to be elected president, whose electorate would be closer to V. Ušackas?
Closer to G. Nausėda or S. Skvernelis?
According to the public opinion and market research centre Vilmorus head Vladas Gaidys, regarding electorates, V. Ušackas is closer to G. Nausėda than S. Skvernelis, even if he is apparently trying to appeal to the entire voter base.
“Their (V. Ušackas and G. Nausėda’s) electorate is even identical, albeit V. Ušackas is currently standing quite well as a second choice, thus his electorate expands – those with middle and higher education would vote for him, both the residents of cities and regions. The residents of major cities, especially Vilnius, those with high education, highly qualified workers are prepared to vote for both V. Ušackas and G. Nausėda. In terms of age, there is no clear differentiation, albeit younger voters are more inclined to vote for G. Nausėda, while S. Skvernelis’ electorate is significantly older. S. Skvernelis is currently the favourite in the regions, while G. Nausėda is the same in the cities, but V. Ušackas is aiming for both,” the sociologist commented.
Meanwhile, the director general of Baltijos Tyrimai Rasa Ališauskienė says that the locations V. Ušackas has been going to and the people he has been meeting shows that this candidate is more so replicating the Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union electoral campaign: “He is travelling more in the regions, smaller towns, not the larger cities. At least currently, this candidate is not seeking the capital and elite audience. G. Nausėda is also travelling around regions, but with economic lectures, while V. Ušackas has started a real electoral campaign. As such, V. Ušackas’ audience is currently more akin to S. Skvernelis’. By making a presentation in Kaunas, he is seeking to show that he is a candidate for all of Lithuania, not Vilnius.”
In his Facebook profile, V. Ušackas has specified that in upcoming days he intends to meet voters in Utena, Panevėžys, Ukmergė and London.
According to R. Ališauskienė, V. Ušackas is better known in the large cities since the time he worked as a diplomat, hence it is natural that he needs to reach out to those, who do not recall him or do not know him at all.
According to V. Gaidys, when competing for the same electorate, other questions will be important, such as those of Russia, the European Union and US president Donald Trump. “At times here only one word could be decisive. It will be interesting to hear, what the candidates have to say on these matters, how Lithuania should act. We are now stepping into the second stage – the candidates are declaring their participation in the elections and analysts and politicians are beginning to read, which is a good candidate and which is bad. Thus, every one of them will have to answer about Russia and others and here, every choice of words could change people’s views of them,” V. Gaidys told lrt.lt.
Political scientist: much will depend on the Conservatives
Vytautas Magnus University professor Mindaugas Jurkynas told lrt.lt that V. Ušackas is aiming for the second round of elections and this is what his further strategy would depend upon, who he will compete with. “If one is to guess, it should be G. Nausėda and in the second round, both these candidates will hold a centrist position in order to draw wider electorates,” the political scientist explained.
In his opinion, V. Ušackas is positioning himself as an individual, who has experience, reputation and has worked in the diplomatic service. “He has worked with the Mission Siberia project, was the EU representative in Afghanistan. All this increases his overall visibility. I wouldn’t say that he is only oriented at a target group, but he is an experienced diplomat and appears on the front pages of various publications, so it is likely not akin to someone treading through ploughed land in wellies. To quip, he represents the elite in a positive way,” the VDU professor said.
According to M. Jurkynas, V. Ušackas’ position on electorate could be greatly backed by the actions of the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, which he belongs to. “V. Ušackas, as a former and present member of the Conservative party, will definitely be unable to claim he is not a conservative. He announced his candidacy prior to the internal elections in the party and this has caused discontent, also placing the party in an awkward position. In such a case, I believe he may have to compete for the votes left over from the Conservative party because if it is stated that he breached party regulation and is removed from the party, this could be a signal to Conservative voters,” M. Jurkynas explained.
So far, the following candidates have declared their intent to run for president in May 2019: Naglis Puteikis, Aušra Maldeikienė, Valentinas Mazuronis, Petras Auštrevičius, Žygimantas Pavilionis and V. Ušackas. Philosopher and one of the founder of Sąjūdis Arvydas Juozaitis and Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Union leader, MEP Valdemar Tomaševski are also considering running for president.