SEB analysts on the forthcoming Lithuanian presidential election candidates

September 19, 2007 at 3:00 pm 1 comment

The Presidential PalaceThe SEB Bank on 18 September has presented its analysis regarding the future Lithuanian Presidential elections in 2009.  So far most of Lithuanian parties have not revealed their plans regarding candidacy for the 2009 elections.  According to the Bank there are few reasons for that, either they have not made decisions or the parties do not have a politician who could run for the post.

As the BNS reported the analysis states that “Some of them are not even giving serious thought to the alternative of raising candidacies of their chairmen or seeking a popular “legionary” in the society”.

The Social Democrats were the first ones to send signals to the political market by starting to pave the ground of their leader, Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, to the helm of the state.

“The left party would like to safeguard their leader from possible bad luck in parliamentary elections and are, therefore, unwilling to include him in the party’s lists for single-mandate voting. The single-mandate ballot may bring various surprises and misfortunes, which is absolutely redundant for Kirkilas who is patiently stockpiling political capital. For this reason, the head of the Social Democratic Party will probably seek a mandate in the Seimas through the party list only”.

As the BNS writes according to the review, the strife for the presidential post will influence the performance of Kirkilas as the prime minister. Following his earlier unwillingness to launch reforms, he will continue to avoid any mistakes and refrain from risky decisions. Vital organizational issues regarding construction of the new nuclear power plant will be an exception, reads the document.

The analysts are almost certain concerning the independent candidate of the National Farmers’ Union for president – current Agriculture Minister Kazimira Prunskienė. “The ambitious politician would like to take revenge for the loss to Valdas Adamkus in the 2004 presidential elections, furthermore, a victory would crown her prolonged career in various state institutions”. Prunskienė’s plans could be affected by the weak performance of her party in the 2008 parliamentary elections, which is “quite possible.”

“The parliamentary interpellation against her ended in failure due to disapproval of the ruling coalition. One thing is obvious: as time passes, the prime minister is unlikely to allow his potential competitor to win political bonus,” reads the review. According to the document, the situation with the right and liberal political forces is far more complex, as their current leaders stand low chances of running for the presidential post.

Experts believe that the Conservatives’ support to the minority government of Kirkilas caused enormous damage to the image of the Conservatives’ leader Andrius Kubilius.  “On one hand, status as an opposition party puts under the obligation of criticizing the ruling majority, while on the other hand the agreements between the Conservatives and the Social Democrats “took the sting” out of the criticism. No wonder that the critical remarks have lately been rather formal or without a particular goal”.

SEB states that  the scandal of suspected corruption, which was not proved in court, has upset presidential plans for former Vilnius city mayor Artūras Zuokas of the Liberal Centre Union. Although he would be old enough to run for the 2009 elections, his controversial activities at the Vilnius city municipality are still resounding in the ears of the electorate. Furthermore, withdrawal to the opposition in the current city council has reduced Zuokas’ chances of attracting the society’s attention by way of specific actions and decisions.

The experts believe that the past year was not an ally to Petras Auštrevičius, the leader of the Liberal Movement.  “After the rather successful showing at the last presidential elections, the politician lost a considerable number of supporters and his earlier popularity. The main problem with Auštrevičius lies in his inability to concentrate on key issues of the state. Foreign policy is the strong point of the certificated economist, however, it is insufficient for winning voters’ trust”.

Under the circumstances, the right and the centrist political wings will search for outside figures who will be party-affiliated or, like the current president Valdas Adamkus, consolidating two or more parties.

One of the names frequently mentioned among presidential candidates is European Commission (EC) member Dalia Grybauskaitė, a former member of the Cabinet of Social Democrat Algirdas Brazauskas.

Grybauskaitė is said to have secured an image as a strong, determined and independent politician – characteristics sought by Lithuanian voters who are tired of backdoor compromises, protection of business or other interest groups at legislative and executive institutions.

However, as Grybauskaitė has only worked in domestic policy as a minister, doubts have been raised regarding the reliability of her image. Furthermore, her willingness to join the presidential race is still unclear.

In the experts opinion, the two years until the presidential elections in Lithuania give hope that the Conservatives and the Liberals would succeed in finding more aspirants for the post.

On the other hand, if the people are entirely new to the political arena, there is a risk that the duration of the “training camp” will not ensure proper preparation for the presidential “championship”.

The analysts guess that the minimum time needed for the preparation would be at least 12-15 months before the elections, i.e., everything necessary for participation in the polls should be done in the coming year.

The review notes that the current president, Adamkus, has only given a highly indistinct description of his visionary successor. In his opinion, he should be a Western representative of the young generation with no necessary obligations to a specific political party. Most importantly, he should be trusted by not only the political elite but also the society, which has given an extremely high degree of popularity to the current state leader.

From this point of view, the experts said, it will be difficult for the president’s successor to gain momentum due to the fact that Adamkus will definitely remain the moral authority for Lithuanian people until the end of the five-year tenure.

“The future president will have to work hard to overcome the threshold of honesty and dedication to the Homeland raised so high by Adamkus,” reads the review.

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Entry filed under: Baltic States, Lithuania, Northern Europe, Politics.

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