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Lithuanian President Nausėda‘s 100 days in office: nothing messed up, communication improved

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Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda is marking this week the first hundred days of presidency. Both his supporters and ready-to-bite analysts agree than he has not messed up things, although some frown at his conformity with the Farmers and Greens Union-orchestrated Seimas and the Government.

More accessible than his predecessor

Asked to opine on Nausėda’ 100-day milestone, Lauras Bielinis, professor of Kaunas Magnus University, called the question «difficult».

«What I certainly like about the new president is that, communication-wise, he is very accessible and speaks with everybody. This was not characteristic to his predecessor (Dalia Grybauskaitė – L. J.) who was rather choosy in picking persons to speak to,» Bielinis told BNN

The scholar could not think of any lapses made by Nausėda during the first hundred days.

«Yes, he paid visits to Lithuania’s immediate neighbours, Latvia and Poland, yes, he was smart not to sour his fledgling relations with legislature, Seimas, and the governing body, Government, although let’s admit that some expected a tougher stance in dealing with them. It seems Nausėda wants to cozy up with all before he gets tougher, especially ahead of deliberations of a new budget and so on,» Bielinis accentuated.

Signs of weaknesses?

Vytautas Bruveris, chief correspondent and analyst at the daily Lietuvos Rytas, also discerned the fact of Nausėda’s predictability in office.

«The transition was smooth and he shunned any shake-ups and hostilities and conflicts,» Bruveris told BNN. He however underscored that Nausėda presidency is proving to be of the kind he has warned before the election: Nausėda seems so far weak.

«If nothing changes in the months to come, we may see in office one of the weakest Lithuanian presidents ever. From that point of view his presidency can be weaker than Valdas Adamkus’ second term, which was marked with little action and inability to make change,» Bruveris accentuated.

«The first hundred days just strengthened such conviction. Like his predecessor Dalia Grybauskaitė, he stuck with all the most important public officer holders from the very beginning. Look, no major changes have taken place in the Government, judiciary and law enforcement,» Bruveris added.

New President prefers a smooth sailing

According to him, Nausėda missed an excellent chance to demonstrate his tough character and determination to change things.

«Shuffling Government, at least a little, would have done just that, but Nausėda refrained from doing it, explaining that stability matters most to him,» the analyst said.

«On one hand, such conformity can be understood, as any major changes in Government could perhaps have led to chaos and ruckus ahead the new parliamentary elections next fall. But on the other hand, it points to his lack of determination to address many issues,» Bruveris pointed out.

Perhaps the loudest statement that Nausėda made during his first hundred days was the exhortation to create «a welfare state», Bruveris noted, but underlined that it was declarative, without a clear-cut plan or programme rolled out.

In foreign politics, Bruveris says he was «surprised» by Nausėda’s attempts to thaw relations with Belarus, which, in his words, is an affiliate of Russian dictatorship.

«His narrative that Lithuania needs to help Belarus, so it stays independent from Russia as much as it is possible under the circumstances, sounds naïve and even dangerous to me. Any flirtation with any autocracy is dangerous,» Bruveris is convinced.

President flirted with extreme rightists?

According to him, Nausėda’s inability to take a clear and firm standing in the scandal related to the removal of the controversial memorial plaque to Jonas Noreika, a Lithuanian military officer known as Generolas Vėtra (General Storm), in central Vilnius also exposed Nausėda’s weaknesses.

«Instead of forming a policy on the issue, instead of saying if the state or the municipalities should have the final say in this kind of matters, Nausėda traded jabs with Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius and flirted with extremist groups on the right,» Lietuvos rytas analyst observed.

Šimašius said his decision to remove the plaque was aimed at applying the «equal principle» to all memorial signs related to totalitarian regimes, be it the removal of the Soviet statues from the Green Bridge four years ago, or the removal of the plaque to Noreika.

A bad international spotlight

Lithuania’s Jewish community has for some time demanded the removal of the plaque honouring Noreika who, as head of Siauliai County during the Nazi occupation period, signed documents on the establishment of a Jewish ghetto and on arrangements regarding Jewish property. The plaque for the controversial figure was in April smashed with a hammer by Stanislovas Tomas who unsuccessfully tried to run for the European Parliament. It was later glued back together and put back on the wall, and the municipality’s representatives vowed to consult historians.

«Internationally, Lithuania has been dealt a blow – all foreign embassies, and that of Israel, were observing the events very attentively,»  Bruveris said. «That this happened Nausėda is to be blamed, partly at least,» he added.

Pollster: a nice start

Asked about Nausėda’s 100-day milestone, Vladas Gaidys, head of market research and polling company Vilmorus, told BNN that, in comparison with his predecessors’ first 100 days in office, his support, at ca 65 percent now, is similar to that of Valdas Adamkus in the first term.  At 100 days’ mark the clear record holder, popularity-wise, was Dalia Grybauskaitė, whose support was at an impressive 90 percent. Ousted president Rolandas Paksas had around 50 percent support after his first 100 days in office.

«There clearly was no a roadblock, or even a single sharper pebble, on Nausėda’s road so far,» Gaidys concluded to BNN.

Juozaitis: Nausėda condones banks he worked for

Arvydas Juozaitis, a former candidate of the Lithuanian presidential race earlier the year, told BNN that, in his opinion, Nausėda neither messed up things, nor improved them.

«He acted during the first hundred days (in office) as a good balancing force, avoiding squabbles and vain politicking. However, I am disappointed that he did not even rebuke Scandinavian banks after Swedbank and SEB decided earlier this week to cease all foreign currency cash operations in their all affiliates starting December,» he said.

«In addition, I am saddened that Nausėda did not endorse the idea of taxying bank assets in bid to garner more money for the country’s social needs,» Juozaitis said.

The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance, part of the ruling coalition in Lithuania, has proposed taxing the assets of banks, credit unions and other companies issuing loans, worth over 300 million euros. It suggests applying a monthly tax rate of 0.03 percent and has registered a related bill in the parliament.

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