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Saulius Skvernelis, Gitanas Nausėda and Visvaldas Matijošaitis
© DELFI montažas

With less than a year to go to the presidential elections, individuals, who have yet to declare their intent to become the head of state remain the most popular candidates. Political scientists and sociologists state that Saulius Skvernelis, Gitanas Nausėda and Visvaldas Matijošaitis, who already have the public's sympathies have no need to rush and worry over the rising popularity of Vygaudas Ušackas.

Silence is a natural occurrence

For now, six candidates have declared their intent to run in the May 2019 presidential elections: Naglis Puteikis, Aušra Maldeikienė, Valentinas Mazuronis, Petras Auštrevičius, Žygimantas Pavilionis and Vygaudas Ušackas.

However, according to the head of the public opinion and market research centre Vilmorus, Vladas Gaidys, the situation has changed little over the past year: the top three candidates remain the same. These are Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, economist and SEB bank president's advisor G. Nausėda and Kaunas city Mayor V. Matijošaitis. However, they, as if in agreement, remain silent and neither confirm, nor deny their candidacies for the presidential elections.

Political scientist Jūratė Novagrockienė states that such silence is a natural occurrence. "Going public is a major responsibility. V. Matijošaitis and S. Skvernelis are public figures. It would be more difficult for G. Nausėda (announcing his candidacy). Everyone, who enters politics, also takes their family into public. They are put under scrutiny. One needs strong armour and resolution. Politcs always demands sacrifice," the political scientist says. This is exactly why she believes that the three candidates are in no rush to announce their decisions.

The prime minister's declaration that he will announce whether he will participate in the presidential elections only next year comes as no surprise to V. Gaidys. "Compared to other candidates, he has nowhere to hurry, S. Skvernelis is on TV daily anyway. Others have material problems, are thinking how to assemble the needed 20 thousand signatures. He does not care about such matters. If he wishes, he can rapidly gather them. In this matter he is in a more convenient position than G. Nausėda," the sociologist explained.

Municipal elections as a litmus test

The nearing municipal elections, according to J. Novagrockienė will become a litmus test, which will allow the parties to test their strength. However, the political scientist does not believe that their results will decide whether S. Skvernelis chooses to participate in the presidential elections or not.

"Both S. Skvernelis and V. Matijošaitis are practical people. S. Skvernelis would find it more suitable and I believe safer to remain in the post of prime minister, rather than aiming to be head of state. The question is whether as president he will be able to have as weighty a position as Dalia Grybauskaitė has now," the political scientist says. In her opinion, it is quite possible that the "Farmers" may find a different strong individual and in tandem with other parties could offer a joint candidate.

According to V. Gaidys, of the three favourites, Kaunas Mayor V. Matijošaitis is showing the least desire to be president. According to a June 19-27 survey by Spinter Tyrimai commissioned by Delfi, he would receive votes from 10% of the population.

When asked, who V. Matijošaitis' votes could go to if he does not run for office, V. Gaidys was in no rush to give an exact answer. According to the sociologist, the Kaunas mayor's electorate is quite mixed. "But based on party preferences, they are mostly "Farmer" voters," V. Gaidys notes.

Advice to G. Nausėda

The sociologist says that in their social-demographic traits, S. Skvernelis and G. Nausėda's voters are more defined. "S. Skvernelis is backed by lower education, qualification people. They have lower incomes, are residents of the regions and rural areas. He is also backed by ethnic minorities.

G. Nausėda's electorate is as if a mirror image. He is backed by the youth, students, individuals with higher education, specialists. These are higher income people, residents of the major cities. This is a clear distinction," V. Gaidys explains.

According to him, the candidates do not clash. Quite the contrary, their electorates contribute to one another. "Such sharing is not unique in Lithuania or other countries. We saw it in 1997 when Valdas Adamkus, who would appear to match G. Nausėda, went up against R. Paulauskas, who would match S. Skvernelis," V. Gaidys states.

While the electorates may differ, V. Gaidys has advice for G. Nausėda. "It is far easier to deter people than attract them. G. Nausėda could deter people with loud liberal slogans: I will give you a fishing rod, but not the fish. Slackers eat fish, while hard working people use the rod to catch fish and so on. Libertarian thoughts may insult some people, presenting that they are slackers. The candidate should be socially sensitive to understand common people, have empathy," V. Gaidys shared his insight.

V. Ušackas' fortunes might not last

Based on data from the June survey, it is notable that Vygaudas Ušackas, who declared his candidacy officially has replaced S. Skvernelis in the top three. He would have garnered 6.7% of the vote in June, while S. Skvernelis – 6.3%. However, experts hold little hope for V. Ušackas' victory.

His fortunes, V. Gaidys states, will depend on whether the aforementioned trio participates in the elections. Meanwhile J. Novagrockienė believes that he has no chances of winning. "V. Ušackas shouldn't do badly. He is a show person, is capable of reacting adequately to circumstances. But I believe that he has no chances of winning. His origin is Russian. Honestly, this could deter many voters," the political scientist notes.

Success could also turn away from the current leader G. Nausėda according to her. He is currently the most popular potential candidate, with backing from 20.06% of voters.

As a new entrant to politics, G. Nausėda could hear some rather unpleasant things about himself, J. Novagrockienė states. "Often, compromising facts are sought. Black technologies are employed, seeking to besmirch the individual. G. Nausėda's success will also depend on his advisors. We see him commenting on economics, finance. He may find experience lacking because the back stage of politics is a complex matter. It is very important, how he will choose advisors," J. Novagrockienė says.

Also, the political scientist says that the situation could change depending on what candidate the TS-LKD chooses. She is convinced that the TS-LKD is an ambitious party, which will certainly seek to have its own candidate.

According to her, another variable is potential new entrants into the race. "Remember D. Grybauskaitė and her electoral campaign. She was abroad for a long time. A new person's entry into the political arena is an advantage that helps win. I am sorry that G. Nausėda was brought up ahead of time because he could have been the Trojan horse, who could have buried the other candidates. Unfortunately he is being placed aside those, who may not even run for office," the political scientist states