It was not only party connections, but also avoiding to admit these connections that were among the reasons that hampered Ingrida Šimonytė‘s performance in the second round of presidential elections. According to political and communications experts, Gitanas Nausėda‘s landslide victory revealed not only potential mistakes of I. Šimonytė and her team but also trends in political and electoral behaviours, Viktorija Rimaitė writes in lrytas.lt
On social media, support for I. Šimonytė was widespread and after the first round, it was announced that her campaign received donations from the most private individuals.
“We are often left with the mistaken impression that what we see in the public space will necessarily transfer over to those, who are less related to the information sphere.
While I. Šimonytė was dominant on social media and it sufficed in the first round, it was definitely not enough in the second,” public relations specialist Arijus Katauskas told the lrytas.lt news portal when sharing his impressions on confidence in perceptions created by Facebook and I. Šimonytė‘s performance, as well as the hopes held by her supporters prior to the second round.
He was echoed by Lithuanian Military Academy (LKA) political scientist Vytautas Isoda, who remarked that flawed criteria were chosen for the evaluation of I. Šimonytė‘s positions.
“I. Šimonytė‘s popularity was judged based on social media and individual private donations – these are neither sufficient nor reliable indicators. A generation gap may have also played a role: the younger generation operated on social media and they were more supportive of I. Šimonytė. Thus, there could have been a distortion of the image,” V. Isoda told the portal lrytas.lt
According to Vilnius University Faculty of Communications professor Gintaras Aleknonis, a mistaken impression created by social media is a natural occurrence, from which both politicians and political consultants should learn. According to the VU professor, what is created in the social media environment is discussions with the likeminded, which by far does not mean that everyone thinks so.
“If we are to talk about the Facebook social network, we must not forget the so-called filter bubble phenomenon, where people are seemingly closed off in the social network.
On one hand, we talk about Facebook as an environment that is unfriendly to the other opinion. On the other hand, you expel people, who hold a different opinion, from your circle. Thus, we create an illusion for ourselves that everyone thinks as we do and trusting Facebook takes us down the wrong path,” G. Aleknonis told the lrytas.lt news portal.
Public relations specialist A. Katauskas believes that I. Šimonytė‘s positions were weakened by not only excessive faith in impressions left by social media but also a lack of a communications strategy.
“You reach the second round – all is good. But a strategy of how to face off against one, who is non-partisan, what to do when you lack a very clearly defined opponent to fight against, there was none of that.
As for the messages that were inviting and strengthening, they emerged too late,” A. Katauskas remarked.
Obstruction from both party affiliation and avoiding recognising it
The candidate’s authenticity – professor G. Aleknonis emphasised this concept as a politician’s trait that attracts voter support and one that encompasses earnestness, which is particularly lacking in the current Lithuanian political arena.
“In this case, in regard to party support, what is important is not so much association or lack of with a party, but the individual’s authenticity. People spot falsification easily.
In the end, I. Šimonytė is a member of the Conservatives Seimas group, she was a minister in the Conservatives’ government. The impression arises that public efforts to take distance to the party harmed her authenticity and this harmed the image that was being created of her as an earnest individual. At the same time, you cannot say that you are taking distance to the party, but then you get major financial support [from it].
There were two equally important factors in the election communications face-off: association with a party, regardless of what party it may be and the fear to admit that she is their representative, as well as a denial of obvious things. These are two factors, which could have had a significant impact on people’s decisions.
Authenticity and earnestness are the two things most lacking in contemporary politics because people really dislike pretending heroes,” the VU professor shared his insights.
According to VU professor G. Aleknonis, I. Šimonytė‘s loss in the second round has links to the Conservative party’s performance in the 2016 Seimas elections, however, at the same time, it reveals that the party did not learn from the mistake it made during the last parliamentary elections.
“In the second round of elections, I. Šimonytė received slightly fewer votes than in the first round. That’s a very important sign.
The two weeks between the first and second round are very important – you can make amends, but also make mistakes. If we are to recall the results of the 2016 parliamentary elections, the two weeks between the first and second round, as well as how the Conservative party acted between the two rounds, we will see that they acted very unwisely.
What is worst is that they did not learn from their mistake,” G. Aleknonis noted o the Conservative party’s political behaviour.
To remind, I. Šimonytė received 437,399 votes in the second round. In the first round, support for her was a little higher at 446,719 votes.
LKA political scientist V. Isoda emphasised that the past few presidential elections created a precedent for non-partisan candidates’ success, which people may have been operating based on in these elections and may continue to operate based on.
“As Gabrielius Landsbergis excellently observed himself on Monday morning, the Conservatives are a polarising party – you either love it or hate it, nearly no one is indifferent to it.
On the other hand, if we are to look at the context of recent presidential elections, in the second round in 2014 and in the first round in 2009, the main rival of Dalia Grybauskaitė was a party affiliated candidate and in both these cases, the partisan candidate lost by a wide margin.
The European Parliament elections have shown that parties are still alive in Lithuania, but in regard to the presidential elections, as shown by Valdas Adamkus, Dalia Grybauskaitė, and now Gitanas Nausėda‘s successes, a trend for non-partisan candidates being elected is forming,” V. Isoda commented on the situation.