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Wednesday 23.08.2017 | Name days: Valgudis, Ralfs, Vitālijs
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Lithuanian political parties gets engulfed in «refreshment» frenzy

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Gabrielius Landsbergis

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

Lithuanian political establishment is seeing something yet unseen: the silver-haired chairmen of major Lithuanian parties are nodding nearly in unison to youth, and if not for it, so definitely for change.

The powerful Lithuanian Conservative Party, known as Homeland Union- Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU-LCD) is still cosying up with the new chairman, a boyish looking 33-year-old Gabrielius Landsbergis, the grandson of Vytautas Landsbergis, dubbed the patriarch of the party and post-Soviet Lithuania’s politics. And the others mull following the Conservatives’ footsteps.

SDP may see young leader soon, too

Don’t get duped by the pretty face lines of Gabrielius: the man sits as an MEP in the European Parliament and his drawn stern EU-Russian relations strategy amid the new geopolitics has drawn awe across the aisles. Oh, yes, Gabrielius is a father of four, a tangible embodiment of the Conservatives’ family policies.

Following the shake-up of the HU-LCD top (most of the new chair’s deputies are thought to be in their late thirties-early forties), the ruling Lithuanian Social Democrat Party (SDP), the other pillar of Lithuanian political establishment, has also scrambled to talk of the party’s «refreshment».

Obviously, it has to start off with the leaders, so, catching with the tune, Algirdas Butkevičius, the SDP chairman, said on Thursday, April 30, he wants to see a young politician replacing him.

Well, not just yet, but high public support enjoying Butkevičius insisted he will «bring up» the subject at the party’s convention this Friday, April 1.

And furthermore, the social-democratic Lithuanian PM lined up potentially new herdsmen of the party: Mindaugas Sinkevičius, the mayor of the Jonava Municipality, Gintautas Paluckas, Vilnius deputy mayor, Juras Požėla, a parliamentarian, Justas Pankauskas, Butkevičius‘ advisor and Ramūnas Burokas, the leader of Lithuania‘s young Social Democrats.

The laborists also beat the chord of «refreshment», but, unlike the Conservatives and Social Democrats, they are courting Valentinas Mazuronis, an agile sexagenarian, MEP and one of the former fulcrums of the Order and Justice Party that he left in disagreements with the party chairman, Rolandas Paksas.

If the grassroots does not bristle against the plan, stitched up hurriedly to salvage the Labor Party by its Honour Chairman Viktoras Uspaskichas,Mazuronis should start orchestrating the Laborists already in summer.

To remind, the country’s Liberal Movement, showering lately in the dazzling popularity in the polls, have long been rubbing shoulders with youth: Eligijus Masiulis is 41 like the new Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius and Antanas Guoga, the Liberals‘ star, currently a MEP and an expected Liberals’ candidate in 2019 presidential elections, is 42.

«New topics are necessary»

But in the limelight for now is still G. Landsbergis, with the commentators often going to extremes in their analysis on yet until recently pretty much unknown politician.

Yes, the underlying argument is still there the same: the junior Landsbergis reaps the brownies of his grandfather’s prominence. This is hard to deny and the argument of «Landsbergis dynasty» will obviously jaunt the Conservatives’ new star.

«The reasoning on the topic will taper off or perhaps stop when he (Gabrielius Landsbergis) after warming up in the HU-LCD chair seat will start outlining his policies, especially if he comes with some big ideas, reverberating across the party and the society in general. Shortly, he still has to make name for himself, but as soon as he starts doing it, the ancestry thing will dim,»predicted Rimvydas Valatka, a well-known Lithuanian analyst.

As if echoing, G. Landsbergis has already pointed out after the election that besides the «traditional subjects», which like state security, state defence and energy security, have always been important for the party, a«wider spectrum of themes» must appear.

Among the new themes for the parliamentary election next year, he said, could be social welfare, education, emigration and striving to get the thousands of Lithuanian emigrants back home.

Gabrielius Landsbergis garnered 5192 votes in the election runoff, leaving Irena Degutienė, the runner-up, with 4094 votes in her favour.

By the way, when elected, G. Landsbergis offered her the deputy chairman’s position, which Degutienė accepted.

In his one of the first in-depth interviews to the daily Lietuvos Rytas, G. Landsbergis explained his resolve to lead the party and seek a seat in Lithuanian Parliament next year by the reason that it gives more «self-realization» and allows do more.

«The review of the party’s results to the European Parliament and municipal councils gives an impression the HU-LCD skids off and does not move forward unable to cohere. It seems there are leaders and all have ideas and clear provisions of the programme, but, obviously, there is a need for renewal- a fresh view, new energy and new ideas,» G. Landsbergis told.

He is set to continue his stint in Brussels and has said he will step down from the stint before the parliamentary election campaign is kicked off.

This has drawn some irk from some of the Conservative Party’s stalwarts –Jurgis Razma, who also contended for the HU-LCD chairperson seat, rebuked G. Landsbergis the further stay in Brussels might be against the party’s « best interests.»

New HU-LCD head to touch up party image

In the interview, G. Landsbergis admitted that there is «perhaps» some «arrogance» in the party, also « moments of judgmentalism»

«People tend to vote for politicians with whom they can relate themselves and see their reflection in them. It is hard to relate yourself with someone who portrays himself of herself as mistake-proof, someone who condemn,» the 33-year-old noted.

Gabrielius Landsbergis believe he can present himself differently.

«But obviously joint efforts are needed in the regard, I hope I will be able to convince my colleagues that we have to be more understanding,» he said.

He suggested he disagrees with those who insist that the party’s so-called «Talibs», preaching the fundamental, Christian religion-based views within the party, may try to break away.

«I believe that the party will remain united and stable. All the flare-ups of emotions have to fizzle away, in fact, all the social media has been triggering them quite a lot. But now we all ought to look forward, not backwards,» G. Landsbergis said.

When faced with the example of the British Conservatives’ leader, David Cameron, who has been quite liberal on some hot social issues, like same-sex partnerships, the new HU-LCD leader suggested «inner discussions» are necessary for issues like this.

«I believe that, first, we have to let to weigh on the issue like this to experts of social affairs, also hear the party leader and all the grassroots. I’d stick with the single approach in the party,» G. Landsbergis emphasized.

HU-LCD likely to be in Liberals’ shadows until Seimas election

Rimvydas Valatka says the HU-LCD has been «forced» by the «circumstances» to let the new party leader «jump over several generations”, which is seen as a “drastic step.”

«The result of the shuffle remains yet to be seen and can be predicted neither by the Conservatives themselves, nor us, the public. It might work and it might not. The gist is not about age, but the capability to govern others. So in that sense, it won’t be easy at all for Gabrielius Landsbergis to reign up the different layers of the party,» Valatka told BNN. He added: «There are quite a few influential Conservatives in the party who will be willing to weigh in on the party’s management.»

The analyst notes G. Landsbergis is «very little known» until now: «There have been few public appearances by G. Landsbergis even before the EU Parliament election.»

At the moments, the Liberals, he says, are «a lot more likeable» than the other parties, including the HU-LCD, and the latter’s staying in the Liberals’ shadow might last for quite some time.

«The Liberals have won already against the Conservatives and the former are likely to be rolling high until the parliamentary election in 2016. A sinister omen for the Conservatives,» Valatka said.

Still, junior Landsbergis has got « an advantage»

Tomas Janeliūnas, a political analyst and associate professor at Lithuania’s International Relations and Political Sciences, told BNN that the «first half-year» of the chairmanship will define Gabrielius Landsbergis’ leadership skills and potential.

«It will be hinged much on how much time he will have for direct meetings with the party’s branches. I don’t think that his stay for now in Brussels could make any harm to the party. Look, no asks the question how the Brussels stint by Rolandas Paksas affect Order and Justice Party he’s been chairing for over a decade,» Janeliūnas said.

He says that the advantage of G. Landsbergis is that he has nothing to do with the legacy of the HU-LCD, which, according to the analyst, would often« haunt» the party from one election to another.

«The former party leader (Andrius Kubilius) has dealt a lot with his legacy as prime minister and often it worked against him,» the analyst noted.

He downplays the argument that junior Landsbrgis is carried by his famous grandson.

«It has helped, but that would have been not enough if he appeared unattractive to the voters,» the analyst said.

Janeliūnas, however, suggested that the current stagnation within the party can hardly get shaken off before the election to Seimas next year.

«In the light of the surge of Liberals and high support for the Social Democrats, it forebodes nothing good for the Conservatives,» he predicted.

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