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Tuesday 20.08.2019 | Name days: Bernhards, Boriss
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Outgoing Lithuanian President Grybauskaitė lambasted at home, may snatch a top Brussels job

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Lithuanian President-elect Gitanas Nausėda, left, speaks to Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė, during a meeting at the President’s palace in Vilnius, Lithuania

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

If there can be two irreconcilable opposites, then, in Lithuanian politics, they are outgoing president Dalia Grybauskaitė and Gitanas Nausėda, the president-elect. The former has made name for herself as an assertive, bellicose and often insensitive leader, and the latter, though inexperienced in politics, is seen overwhelmingly as a politician willing to listen to others and able to unite.

Grybauskaitė took care of backstage boys

With Grybauskaitė counting her last days in the presidential palace on Daukantas square, she is increasingly subjected to a new round of scrutiny. Even analysts who largely spoke respectfully of her during her 10 years in office, now are not afraid to lash out at the «Steel Magnolia» –Grybauskaitė earned the moniker among foreign press for her toughness.

«Before leaving, she (Grybauskaitė) awarded high diplomatic ranks and jobs in embassies to her devoted advisers. That is clear nepotism, more characteristic to Russia’s political culture. Nepotism entrenched in the judicial system, special services during her years in office. Favouritism flourished with her as the president,» Vladimiras Laucius, a political analyst, observed. «Grybauskaitė considered one parties bad and praised others as good ones. She spoke only to the latter,» he added.

Nausėda speaks of unity, but the political reality can be rough

According to Laucius, judging about Nausėda from his public statements, he is quite another kind of person. «He does not demonstrate contempt to the parties that fell out of favour with Grybauskaitė. He does emphasize the striving to talk and collaborate with all the political spectrum,» he added.

Yet Nausėda can find quite a new political landscape after he is sworn in in early July. The ruling LFGU’s PM Saulius Skvernelis said after voting in the presidential runoff his plans «may» differ from those by the Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU). In addition, the Social Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania and the Order and Justice party, both of which worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the LFGU until now, announced this week they are halting their coalition agreement with the ruling party. Skvernelis did not reveal if he would return his powers to the new president following the inauguration or resign from his post, however he promised to «reshuffle» the Cabinet significantly if he stays in the Government.

Grybauskaitė «self-encapsulated», Nausėda set to «unlock» presidential palace

According to Laucius, the other big difference between Grybauskaitė and Nausėda, is the staggering difference in their approach toward communication. «Grybauskaitė not only self-encapsulated in her small world, but also self-barricaded from the world. Ordering journalists to submit interview questions in advance was only one part of the barricade-like communication. She would shun to publicly explain her political decisions, even those that would justifiably raise doubts and questions. She would decide solely, depending on information that was limited and sifted through by her faithful lackeys in the fortress, protecting her from the reality,» Laucius lambasted the outgoing president in his commentary for delfi.lt

 Meanwhile, analysts note, Nausėda is gregarious, easy to talk to and seems to be enjoying any conversation. In his congratulatory speech on the runoff night last Sunday, Nausėda vowed to «unlock” the presidential palace – host meetings with different groups of the society.

Bernardas Gailius, a prominent Lithuanian journalist, in his commentary also noted that Nausėda sounds liked the Pensive Christ, a pacifier, who came to unite, not divide.

Nausėda was elected overwhelmingly

Nausėda, who ran the election campaign as an independent candidate, breezed to an easy victory in in the runoff election last Sunday, with 65,86 per cent of the voters wanting him as Lithuania’s next president, while Ingrida Šimonytė, the presidential hopeful of the opposition Conservatives (Homeland Union- Lithuanian Christian Democrats, HU-LCD) gathered 32,86 per cent.  Nausėda’s support doubled compared with the first round of voting two week ago. The president-elect vowed to fight social divide in the country and underscored that he will continue fighting oligarchs, against which Grybauskaitė has waged war. Although Nausėda emphasised he wants stability in the government, yet he is in favour of holding parliament elections next spring, rather than in the fall, so that a new government could immediately start drafting a new state budget. Nausėda also hinted that he would soften the rhetoric toward Russia, but underlined that Lithuania’s relations with Russia will not change substantially until Moscow alters its behaviour toward Ukraine.

Why voters chose Nausėda?

In a poll conducted before the runoff, 22 percent of respondents said they picked Nausėda for his profession – Nausėda is economist. Nearly as many, 20 percent, said the candidate’s intelligence, dexterity and the way of thinking appealed them most. Thirteen percent pointed out to his impressive education, a wide worldview and his intellectual skills. Remarkably, to six percent of respondents Nausėda’s handsomeness seemed important in making the decision; also six percent marvelled his ability to communicate, nine percent said they got the impression that Nausėda can keep promises best.

Grybauskaitė will land a top EU job?

With the European and the EU leaders concurring that women have to be proportionately represented in the new-composition EU’s governing bodies, soon jobless Dalia Grybauskaitė is thought to be among candidates to land a top EU job. She has been mentioned by diplomats and politicians as a possible candidate to be the next president of the European Council, the job now held by Poland’s former Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Speaking of Grybauskaitė’s advantages, analysts praise her European experience – she has participated in multiple EU summits has in the past worked as the EU’s budget commissioner and has represented Lithuania at meetings in Brussels as its finance minister. As there is agreement that at least one high-ranking post should go to Central and Eastern European countries, the candidature of Grybauskaitė also looks promising. The other potential contenders from the region include Bulgarian economist Kristalina Georgieva, Slovak diplomat Maros Šefcovič and Latvia’s former Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis.

Toughness on Russia can backfire?

In addition, Grybauskaitė has no affiliation with any political party, which may prove a handicap if European parties seek to push through their candidates. Grybauskaite is seen in Europe as a center-right politician, even though she is not a member of the European People’s Party which brings together center-right parties.   However, analysts note, her toughness on Russia can dash her top EU job hopes. Grybauskaitė called Russia a «terrorist state» in the wake of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Most European politicians are more favourably disposed toward dialog with Moscow.


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