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Skvernelis, Matijošaitis, Nausėda, Ušackas
© DELFI montage

Six candidates have declared their intent to participate in the 2019 presidential elections: Naglis Puteikis, Aušra Maldeikienė, Valentinas Mazuronis, Petras Auštrevičius, Žygimantas Pavilionis and Vygaudas Ušackas. Of the aforementioned, only Vygaudas Ušackas appears worthy of the post to voters, according to recent surveys. Far more trust is directed toward individuals, who have yet to confirm, whether they will participate in the elections, lrt.lt writes.

The uncontested leader – Gitanas Nausėda has stated that he will make his decision known in autumn. Saulius Skvernelis also states he has made his decision, but is so far not revealing it. Visvaldas Matijošaitis, who also is highly rated, seemingly implied that the presidential elections do not interest him. On the other hand, it can be assumed that there could also be those, who are yet to be discussed as candidates and also remain silent. Thus, how would the elections look if they were held in the next few days? And what do sociologists predict?

On Tuesday, Lithuanian Framer and Greens Union (LVŽS) chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis stated he has not changed his mind on the party's presidential candidate. S. Skvernelis' cabinet is working successfully, thus in R. Karbauskis' opinion, the LVŽS candidate will win because all the other potential pretenders do not appear to be "the nation's candidates."

Public surveys show that R. Karbauskis' own chances to win the presidential elections have declined sixfold over the past three years.

Immediately after elections in December 2016, R. Karbauskis would have received 10.2% of the vote, in 2018 – less than two percent (1.7%). Thus, it comes as no surprise that the LVŽS leader leaves running for president to the non-partisan prime minister.

S. Skvernelis' position has changed little since the Seimas elections: if the elections were held in 2018, he would receive a little over a tenth of the vote (11.4%). This is around the same number as in 2016 (10.5%).

However, the prime minister has been significantly exceeded by economist G. Nausėda. The latter's ratings have risen eightfold over the past three years. In 2016, G. Nausėda would have received less than two percent of the vote, in 2018 – more than 15.1% and the number is only rising.

Success has also been accompanying Kaunas Mayor V. Matijošaitis, whose ratings have risen twentyfold in the same period. Only half a percent of voters would have backed him in 2016, while in 2018 – approximately as many as would back S. Skvernelis – more than ten percent (10.1%).

Conservative party member V. Ušackas has recently left diplomatic service and over a short period has increased his ratings almost ninefold (2016 – 0.4%, 2018 – 3%).

"Perhaps his (V. Ušackas') recognition is not at the level of the aforementioned or perhaps three potential candidates. Of course, he definitely has good chances," Vilmorus head Vladas Gaidys said.

V. Ušackas has already started his electoral campaign, however the Conservatives have yet to decide on their candidate, thus the candidacies of another former diplomat – Ž. Pavilionis and A. Kubilius cabinet Minister of Finance Ingrida Šimonytė are also being discussed.

I. Šimonytė's ratings have almost tripled over the past three years, she is in the top five. However, the politician herself has stated that she is not planning on running for president.

According to experts, many know the current favourite G. Nausėda as an advisor to President Valdas Adamkus. They view the economist as a professional in his field, who can be trusted, however this does not meant that such fortune will follow him if he chooses to officially run for the office.

"There have been practically no scandals related to this individual. If a political veteran enters the electoral race, they are probed in detail already and it is difficult to find anything negative or unexpected to the people. Meanwhile G. Nausėda is somewhat unknown in this case," UAB Baltijos Tyrimai head Rasa Ališauskienė says.

VDU professor Lauras Bielinis is of a similar opinion.

G. Nausėda has decent support. But it is always possible to spoil that image by perhaps revealing some domestic problems, his personal traits, family or other relations. I am not saying that this exists. I mean that competitors will always think up something that can be presented as negative," L. Bielinis says.

It is also unclear which political power will back G. Nausėda during campaigning. There is talk that he could become the Conservative party's candidate.

"G. Nausėda's advantage in this case would be public support rather than party support because public opinion is far more important to him than party support or lack of," the professor states.

Vilmorus head V. Gaidys agrees with this opinion: "One party's support could lead to other parties' electorates turning away. If the LVŽS support here, then the TS-LKD may not vote. This is both a plus and a minus."

The LVŽS will easily gather the 20 thousand signatures needed for Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis to run for president. However, so far S. Skvernelis would receive the backing of significantly fewer voters than G. Nausėda. Furthermore, conservative V. Ušackas is hot on his heels, having taken S. Skvernelis' third position in the ratings in June.

According to experts, S. Skvernelis will be more vulnerable than his competition. He will have to explain currently made decisions, his police background will also be brought up.

"Everyone remembers, naturally, but the weakest link will be his tenure as prime minister because prime ministers are held responsible for changes, the bad changes – price increases, obstructions in the economy, people react to it sensitively," L. Bielinis states.

VU TSPMI professor Ainė Ramonaitė muses that by backing the non-partisan prime minister, the LVŽS is burdening S. Skvernelis with the entire party's success.

"If he fails to gather the majority, the LVŽS finds itself in an inconvenient position because it is as if a sort of test of their (the voters') support. If there is no support or it is lower than in the 2016 elections, that's a minus. Hence it is a question of whether they really want it," A. Ramonaitė says.

On Tuesday, S. Skvernelis stated on LRT. Radio that together with their Social Democratic Labour partners, they are seeking a joint candidate for the majority.

S. Skvernelis has been promised support by Kaunas Mayor V. Matijošaitis, who has hinted that he will not run for president. Their electorates combined would almost counteract G. Nausėda's electorate. Sociologist V. Gaidys says that bar unexpected candidates appearing, we can expect the traditional scenario in next year's presidential elections, where two candidates representing two opposing electorates rise up, with the election results being close and the struggle bitter.

"G. Nausėda is the younger people, the better educated, those with higher education, higher income, residents of the major cities. Perhaps more successful people. S. Skvernelis is the opposite, an antipode. If one's is the youth, this time it is those who are older, lower education, lower income, regional centres, more rural residents," V. Gaidys explains.