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G. Nausėda, I. Šimonytė, V. Ušackas
© DELFI montage

One candidate to become head of state is watching basketball matches alongside the nation, another reads and quotes Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Schweik, while a third bathes in the ice cold Baltic Sea in autumn and later broadcasts it on Facebook. Public relations experts and sociologists say that with the nearing presidential elections, we will see ever more efforts by candidates to be noticed by voters. According to communications consultant Linas Kontrimas, all the politicians can be divided into three types based on charisma, but the nation needs a mixture of the three, lrt.lt writes.

It is no secret that Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis enjoys basketball, however in mid-September, during the dramatic Lithuania-Netherlands game, the head of cabinet was rowdy as never before – photographers and cameramen recorded the politician triumphantly jumping from his chair after near every more impressive Lithuanian attack, while after the country's basketballers failing, he would cover his face with his hands. These views drew basketball fans not much less than the game itself.

Meanwhile conservative presidential candidate Ingrida Šimonytė is a fanatic of The Good Soldier Schweik and loves quoting the book and mentioning excerpts from it.

Her competitor in the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) presidential primaries, Vygaudas Ušackas invited his Facebook followers to like an entry where he is next to the Baltic Sea and upon gathering 300 likes, he promised to jump in for a swim. Soon after, he ended up having to fulfil this promise and his wife Loreta Ušackienė shared the video, how V. Ušackas frolicked in the waves.

These are the efforts of just a few potential candidates in next year's presidential elections to draw voters' attention. According to the director general of Baltijos Tyrimai Rasa Ališauskienė, charisma is a very important facet of personality, and this is exactly what presidential ones are, elections. "The emotional component in motivating choice is crucial. Familiar or foreign, honest or dishonest, whether they are close to people – these are some of the key evaluations. Educated, intelligent and experienced, but lacking charisma – such candidates do not win," the sociologist commented to lrt.lt.

Public opinion and market research company VIlmorus head, sociologist Vladas Gaidys notes that personal traits that a presidential candidate must have did not change over twenty years.

"What was relevant back then is still relevant now – people wish for the presidential candidate to be honest, just, non-corrupt, educated and familiar with foreign languages. At the same time, it is important for them to understand normal people. This duality is very typical for various valuations.

It is important to voters that the president would be energetic – what Rolandas Paksas was, but also moderate – like Valdas Adamkus was. Every president also did something – Algirdas Brazauskas built a hydro power plant in Kaunas, was familiar with the countryside. Meanwhile, R. Paksas flew around the world, under bridges and elsewhere. V. Adamkus arrived in Lithuania and became famous as an ecologist – American, who cleaned up the lakes of Michigan. The current head of state Dalia Grybauskaitė pursued an EU career, has a black belt in karate – this is also not within everyone's reach," the sociologist recounted.

Want a collection of traits

Public relations specialist Arijus Katauskas says that both public relations agencies and sociologists' research shows that Lithuanian voters expect a certain amalgam of traits that previous presidents had.

"Some want a patron, along the lines of A. Brazauskas or Kaunas Mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis, others want the president to be an intellectual – like V. Adamkus was. Meanwhile the current head of state D. Grybauskaitė is strict, strong, her retorts have bite. Overall, it is a capacity to draw people's attention. In a different case, we have third echelon candidates, who keep running for the office despite having neither resources, nor charisma. They are so boring and inconspicuous that when they stand with professionals, they fade out, you cannot even remember their names," A. Katauskas stated.

According to the public relations specialist, every audience wants a different candidate.

"If we are to look at the top three of those, who will run for president, we can see that all the people in it are exceptional, famous and sufficiently charismatic. V. Ušackas has excellent oratory and diplomacy, is unworried talking to large audience. Meanwhile, G. Nausėda tries to compensate with his status as a famous economist. He also speaks very well, but in a different style. I. Šimonytė has an excellent sense of humour, talks understandably and acceptably for most people. Thus, they all draw attention.

I would not dare compare I. Šimonytė's Schweik and S. Skvernelis' emotions at the basketball match because this is a very significant matter in respective audiences, while for other voters, these things may mean nothing. Most important is that it would be natural because people really dislike fakeness," A. Katauskas commented for lrt.lt.

Three groups

Communications consultant L. Kontrimas states that all politicians can be divided into three groups based on charisma.

"You can be born charismatic leader, institutional charismatic leader or having nurtured, developed charisma. I. Šimonytė and V. Ušackas clearly represent the institutional type. Another candidate to the post of president, Aušra Maldeikienė can be placed among those, who developed charisma. Arvydas Juozaitis can be attributed with being a born leader. What is Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis? He is still a young politician in both a favourable and unfavourable position. He is in the executive branch and this means that he must maintain an excellent balance. He cannot appear too much, but from his quips and sometimes light hearted talks it can be seen that he is between an institutional and born charismatic leader," L. Kontrimas said.

According to the communications consultant, Lithuanian voters want the future head of state to have a mixture traits.

"We want a mixture between a charismatic leader and one, who nurtured their charisma because we have had institutional leaders up to now. They would usually not comprehend all the emotions the nation would experience and would often bow down to public relations consultants' advice or media influence. But the Lithuanian president is after all the personality and position, which must draw the value vectors, not just talk about charts. And such a candidate exists among those in the running," L. Kontrimas continued.

As an example of a charismatic politician, the communications consultant pointed out former Czech President Vaclav Havel. He helped peacefully overturn communism in former Czechoslovakia and became the hero of the epic struggle, which ended the Cold War.

"We have not had many presidents in living history, but even during the inter war era there were those, who shone with charisma. It is without reason that we forget Aleksandras Stulginskis, who was a very interesting personality. Similarly, today we should not think about how a president reacts to news, this is the government's work, instead we should think about how the person comprehends the processes going on in both Lithuania and the world, as well as how to maintain balance in those processes. If we hear the capacity in candidates' speeches to articulate not only today in their speeches, but also what will happen in fifty years – that's valuable. The reactions to news are just a trend," L. Kontrimas commented for lrt.lt.

So far, the following candidates have declared their candidacies in the presidential elections coming in May 2019:

  • Naglis Puteikis
  • A. Maldeikienė
  • Valentinas Mazuronis
  • Petras Auštrevičius
  • Žygimantas Pavilionis
  • V. Ušackas
  • Gitanas Nausėda
  • A. Juozaitis
  • I. Šimonytė

Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Union leader, MEP Valdemar Tomaševski is mulling also running for president.