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How far will low-budget airline carry the Steel Magnolia?

  • 2013-04-25
  • By Linas Jegelevicius

FORTUNE TELLER: Henri Malosse in a tweet has already prononced Dalia Grybauskaite as the next EU president.

KLAIPEDA - She hops onto a London-bound budget airline plane, snuggles up in her seat and even allows for a sneaky, quite blurry picture of her to be taken. And while on the ground, instead of letting the rift with the government taper off, she seems rather to be enjoying keeping up the heat.
Are these signs that the Steel Magnolia - Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite - has already resolved to tighten her grip on the Lithuanian presidential palace and stay in it another five years after the 2014 presidential election?
 
Steel Magnolia ready for second term
 
For Lauras Bielinis, Kaunas Vytautas Magnus University professor, ex-chief advisor for former President Valdas Adamkus and a political analyst, the larger public exposure and harsher rhetoric pin-points to exactly this - Dalia Grybauskaite, the Lithuanian president, has started her campaign.
Perhaps an invisible one yet to the palace outsiders, but already acutely sensible to the political sniffing dogs: political analysts.

“Sometimes you don’t need vociferous announcements to let everyone know of the intentions. Often it suffices to let a snapshot be taken on a budget airline and circulate it all over, with the message clear: Look, your president is saving, like you. To me, her answer is obvious. I am positive she will participate in the race. All her body language, and the populist gestures, speak of that,” said Bielinis.
With his two sinister books on the president out and enough time spent in the presidential palace, he could be rightly regarded as one of the Steel Magnolia’s scourers. Sure, she is alongside journalist Ruta Janutiene, whose employer, TV3 channel, let her go after she was to air a much-advertised program on the president’s life, one of supposedly “scandalous details.”

“It goes without saying that her late herky-jerky support ratings will assume a steadier direction upward after the show-offs,” the Kaunas Vytautas Magnum University professor says, convinced.
Invincible, tenacious, assertive, that is how the Lithuanian president is described by many inside and outside the Baltic States.
Who could throw down the gauntlet against such a human embodiment of power, even if it comes in the form of a stout, womanly complexion? And, importantly, is it possible to beat her?
 
Who can challenger her?

 
“Perhaps the only political force that is capable of coming up with a presidential race-worthy candidate able to rival her is the Social Democrat Party’s nominee,” Bielinis says. “With the current president positioning herself as a representative of the right, the Social Democrats’ candidate would level off the sides. I believe all other political parties today are unable to provide a competitive and strong candidate for the upcoming race.”
 Meanwhile, the Social Democrats’ former PM and currently an influential PM, Gediminas Kirkilas, asked by The Baltic Times whom the party sees as the most suitable candidate for the race, said “Some four or five names” are being considered.

“We see [the position as] too important to abandon the presidential race,” Kirkilas, adding: “Remember, when the late Algirdas Brazauskas was at the helm of government, the party came up with two great presidential race contenders, Vytenis Andriukaitis and then Ceslovas Juresenas. We have been closing in on a narrow number of the candidates, both from the European and Lithuanian Parliaments, who can match the acting president.”
Asked whether he believes that Grybauskaite will resolutely win a second term in the presidential palace, Kirkilas chuckled: “C’mon. I’m not a fortune teller.”

The Lithuanian Laborists also so far seem secretive on their presidential race nominees. “As you know, the Labor Party chairman Viktor Uspaskich cannot participate in the election because of his Russian birth certificate,” Vytautas Gapsys, an influential Labor Party MP, said to The Baltic Times.
 
Conservatives support expected
 
Like the Social Democrats, the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU-LCD) are believed to be the other party to come up with a worthy candidate, but the Conservatives seem unlikely to do so this time.
“It seems more likely that the HU-LCD will endorse, by all means, Dalia Grybauskaite, a tactic they used in the 2009 presidential election when she won in a land-slide victory. I believe she will move closer to the right in the future. I am sure that Andrius Kubilius, having won the HU-LCD chairman elections, will extend his fullest support for her presidential bid. No Conservative candidate could currently be as strong as Grybauskaite,” says Bielinis.
But the nation will have to wait for the president’s word until the beginning of next year. “I will announce my decision just before the presidential race begins, i.e. at start of next year,” Grybauskaite said recently.
She behaved similarly before the 2009 elections.

“This same announcement is not the beginning of the campaign. It is rather a sign of the run-up and its ultimate confirmation. Her late actions in relation to an improvement of the image signal the election campaign has already started,” noted Bielinis.
But Raimundas Lopta, Baltic Agro Business Institute president and political analyst, is more cautious in estimating the “signs.”
“The president’s manoeuvres we’ve been seeing for a while are not necessary tell-tale about her determination to seek a second presidential tenure. If a politician is really serious, he will never play only one game,” the analyst told Delfi.
Like Bielinis, communication company Publicum’s director Ricardas Jarmalavicius is also sure that Grybauskaite has already made up her mind.
 “I have no doubt whatsoever that the decision is clear. I believe that the president is now pondering what time would suit her best to make the announcement. Logically, it should be chosen having taken into account the effectiveness of such an announcement. The date is very important as it becomes a strategic part of the campaign. You just cannot expect that she will just blurt it out all of a sudden,” the Publicum head said to Delfi.
However, unlike other analysts, he is not convinced that, if Grybauskaite runs, she will position herself as a right wing candidate.
 
What if…?
 
But all the analysts may have missed a stunning possibility - Dalia Grybauskaite might become… EU president.
Having met her in the Lithuanian presidential palace, EU European Economy and Social Affair Committee chairman Henri Malosse has triggered an avalanche of guesses after he posted in his Twitter account: “ The meeting with the to-be EU President was very promising…”

Wow! Did you get that? This thought seems to have been too hard to sniff out even for the watchful alert analysts.
“Why not? Such a post is usually given to representatives of small EU member states. Just look, the acting EU president, Herman Van Rompuy, is Belgian and the European Commission’s chief is Portuguese [Jose Manuel Barroso]. Sure, there’re a lot more small states in the European Union, but I reckon Grybauskaite’s chances to pursue the post would be quite good. She still bears the EC Commissioner’s name in her bio. Besides, the Frenchmen likely wouldn’t support a German candidate to the post, and the Germans would frown on a French name for the nomination. So we’re seeing a vinyl, playing an old melody,” Vytautas Dumbliauskas, Mykolas Romeris University associate professor, said to LRT.lt.
The EU presidential election is set for November 2014, six months after the Lithuanian presidential elections.

But the afore-mentioned Lopata doubts Grybauskaite’s EU presidential possibilities. “Maybe someone in Lithuania would like to see such a scenario and see the president in the EU president’s post, but it’s just not real,” he said.
“Such a scenario would remind one of an election to the United Nations General Secretary post. The Latvians [with former President Vaira Vike-Freiberga] were very hopeful, but it turned out that, in such cases, not wisdom, but interest decides everything. It is exactly because of this reason, that we do not have ‘normal interests’ in the European Union; we don’t have a single, or several big, supporters there. As usual, heavy-weight politicians participate in such games; the Grybauskaite scenario is hardly plausible,” Lopata noted.