Elections in TS-LKD: experience or new vision of leadership?

10.04.2015 | By Gabriel Gorbačevski

On March 16th the former Lithuanian prime minister, Andrius Kubilius announced his resignation from Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) chairman elections. In return Mr. Kubilius proposed to elect MEP Gabrielius Landsbergis. The second round of elections will most likely be held between Christian-Democratic leader Irena Degutienė and G. Landsbergis.

Conservative leader Andrius Kubilius has never been populist, on the contrary, the politician has never been afraid of unpopular decisions. This explains the relatively low popularity, but it mobilizes strong electorate. This time Mr. Kubilius took the unpopular decision in the party –  declared that he will not participate in elections. This move changed everything – no one expected such a statement, especially those candidates for TS-LKD chairman who built their election campaign on the foundations of a “bad Kubilius“ card.

TS-LKD chairman, A. Kubilius – by lending support to G.Landsbergis and, which is more important, without paying attention to the lesson of the last municipal elections in Lithuania – once again showed that he remained faithful to the authoritarian, directive leadership style. On the other hand, Kubilius himself relatively poorly interfered in the daily functioning of the party or bickering beetwen fractions. Mr. Landsbergis immediately started talking about different – assembling and inspiring – leadership, understandably supported by another aspirant to the chairmen Mantas Adomėnas raised a “networked”, “bottom-up active” party concept. It is a time when major parties need leaders characterized by clear value orientation and clear party vision.

Since Mr. Kubilius announced his resignation from the re-elections as a chairman of the TS-LKD, probably for the first time in Lithuania, there is a party discussion that interested public and media not only because of personalities but also in the contents aspect. During the discussion on values Mr. G. Landsbergis immediatelly found himself in a leading position. He aptly described so far prevailing negative TS-LKD “valency“: protect values, divide society into enemies and followers of those values rather than develop, disseminate and reinforce values by specific actions. „The defense of values“ – having meaningless prohibitions, ignoring the real situation – sooner or later smells like hypocrisy. Conservatives have a bug – believe they are always infallible. It seems, G. Landsbergis and his team felt that the old line is not only meaningless in the eyes of the voters but also compromises the traditional conservative values.

Consequently, the wing of the Christian Democrats supporting, I. Degutienė has not caught this program change and started to threaten the party befalling in “liberalism,” “loss of values”. It must be acknowledged that it is depreciated and detached from reality rhetoric. To conclude, G. Landsbergis supporters threw Christian Democrats a serious challenge to compete in their visions of value policy, rather than intimidation and threats. Paradoxically, only Mr. M. Adomėnas always claimed that A. Kubilius is an ideological zealot able to join the discussion equivalently. One way or another, I. Degutienė will have to tame radical “valency supporters” who identify Christianity with nationalism and marginalize groups not accepted by them, because it is clear that it does not add any voter support.

One of the most fervent discussion is about the age and experience of the future party leader. Arguments that G. Landsbergis lacks experience or that he is too short time in the party would make sense if TS-LKD would elect a party manager or secretary. Often political party membership simply depends not on the service time, but on members confidence and decisions, and the TS-LKD (as well as liberals) established a practice that its leadership in prominent positions constantly invites strangers, sometimes even incomprehensible. Accusations of I.Degutienė that she is “too old” to be chairman, are even more hilarious than accusations of Landsbergis that he is too young for this. Although conservatives can show off to other in terms of a number of politically active young people, it is not visible because of the number but due to their activity. Most members of the TS-LKD are not young men, and Lithuania is one of the most aging countries in Europe.

The new TS-LKD chairman, whoever he may be, will have to respond to one of the fundamental changes in the political discourse. Liberals movement with every newly published survey is increasingly gaining more support among voters and becoming the equivalent player on the political scene as the TS-LKD. In addition, the liberals have been building the image of liberalism “with a human face” for months, trying to assign some of the conservative and even Christian Democratic values. Of course, their contents, differs particularly in the implementation but it is necessary to recognize these differences and perceivingly present to supporters; otherwise the TS-LKD will soon lose a significant part of their young voters.

In the case of successful elections for G.Landsbergis, the thesis that Lithuania is one of the few European countries where, unlike other EU countries, service in the European institutions is a springboard for the future political career would be confirmed. So far, the best example of this thesis is offered by President Dalia Grybauskaitė, while another Lithuanian MEP – Antanas Guoga – has great political aspirations.

photo: Oficialus Seimo opozicijos lyderio Andriaus Kubiliaus puslapis

About Author

Gabriel Gorbačevski

Graduated in international relations at the Warsaw University. The fields of interests: energy security of Baltic countries, Lithuanian and Polish foreign policy.