Outgoing Lithuanian President Grybauskaitė: independent and tough, but lacking a vision?


With a hundred days in her Office left, President Dalia Grybauskaitė may want to heave a big sigh of relief, but analysts agree that the winding down of the presidency won’t be any easier than all those years behind. Yet, as Lithuania gears towards the presidential election on May 12, more and more analysts look back to see what political legacy the «Iron Magnolia» (this is how Grybauskaitė was dubbed by foreign press – L. J.) is leaving.

Last days will not be as easy as pie

«I’d say her last days in the Office will be very tough, as many who’d before refrain from criticising her,now, with her days in Daukantas square counted, feel emboldened to lash out at her. Saulius Skvernelis, the Lithuanian Prime Minister and a presidential candidate of the ruling Farmers and Greens Party, definitely leads the choir and it is unlikely that he will tone down his harsh rhetoric,» says Lauras Bielinis, professor of Kaunas Magnus University.

According to him, Skvernelis has assumed the role of a possible alternative to the president, thence his bellicose rhetoric towards the head-of-state.

«There will definitely be more heated bumps into each other in the weeks to come, although Grybauskaitė would rather finish her term amicably, orderly and on good terms with everybody. Ending the job in a rift with the prime minister would keep her in a bad spotlight…This is definitely not what she wants,» Bielinis reasoned.

Combatting corruption was Grybauskaitė’s trademark

«One has to admit that Grybauskaitė has remained Lithuania’s most popular politician over her 10 years in Office. This tells a lot of her personality, she is definitely very persevering and enduring,» Kesutis Girnius, associate professor of the Institute of International Relations and Political Sciences at Vilnius University, told BNN.

One of the main goals she has always had as president was rooting out corruption and bringing more transparency into the state’s life.«This is what permeates through all her presidency,» the analyst emphasised.

On the foreign front, he says, she went from being rather sceptic on the 2 percent-of-GDP-for-defence- and- NATO commitment to being a staunch supporter of the obligation.«As we all know, she subsequently changed her mind on this and has recently raised Lithuania’s commitment to NATO to 2,5 percent of GDP,» Girnius said.

Emerged as an ardent supporter of US

As for the presidential foreign policies, they were pretty mixed, Girnius believes.

«At the beginning, she was trying to be a little more European oriented, trying to balance off the policies of the predecessor, Valdas Adamkus, an émigré from the United States.  She has favoured Germany for quite some time. But before three years into her first term, she became increasingly worried about threats coming from Russia and became an ardent supporter of the United States. Perhaps going too far into that direction,» Girnius underscored.

As for her shortcomings, the expert says that, although she stayed focused much on combating corruption, she missed the fact that the majority of political corruption trials in Lithuania ended in being drawn out for six, seven or eight years and most of the people were acquitted or just having been fined small sums of money.

«She also failed in a sense that she never had a vision of what Lithuania should be. She had limited conversations with the press, she never pointed out what Lithuania should be like in the future and how to go about it,» Girnius accentuated.

President stayed on sidelines of legislation process

«And the final point I’d like to make is, although Grybauskaitė was considered a very strong president and projected image of an activist on all acute issues faced by the state, yet she essentially stayed on the sidelines as far as the most important issues were concerned. I have in mind the social security reform and the Labour Code reform, for example,» Girnius pointed out.

«She’d usually sit back (on the issues) and if something was not up to her liking, she would veto it then. Yet in most cases her vetoes would be upheld. She would have been much more effective if she had taken an active part in the discussions when the legislation was being drawn up, letting her wishes known at the beginning rather than at the end,» Girnius underlined to BNN.

Grybauskaite remained aloof to Poland

Vytautas Dumbliauskas, associate professor at Mykolas Romeris University, asked about the biggest accomplishment of Grybauskaitė presidency, pointed out to her ability to smoothly take over the presidency from Adamkus, her predecessor, and ensure the continuity of the state’s key policies.

«The only thing that caught my attention was her reluctancy to be more approaching towards Poland. As a matter fact, no one can explain very reasonably why Grybauskaitė was standoffish to Poland throughout her both terms,» he added. In some cases, Grybauskaitė appeared to be insightful, he says.

«When she called Russia a terrorist state in late 2014, a major hoopla ensued, with many blaming her for what many believed was inappropriate rhetoric. But Russia’s bellicose stance during the years to come proved that she was right, more or less,» the analyst inferred.

Was slamming left parties without a reason?

Likewise Girnius, Dumbliauskas also discerned Grybauskaite’s zealous resolve to root out corruption, but insisted she «overstrained» herself in approving sacking of Vitalijus Gailius and Vytautas Girzdas, thevery popular heads of the Financial Crimes Investigation Service in 2012.

According to Dumbliauskas, outgoing president ought to be held responsible for paving way to power for the now ruling Farmers and Greens Union.«She was lambasting the Algirdas Butkevičius-led Social Democratic government (in power during 2012-2016) on every possible occasion. She has definitely contributed to the partly wipe-out of left-wing parties. Remember, she also refused to allow the Labour party to enter government coalition talks in 2012, although it garnered most mandates in the 2012 Seimas election,» the analyst reminded. «I’d say Grybauskaitė didn’t have a vision for the state, but she indeed performed well internationally,» he summarised.

Embodiment of President’s image in public’s eyes

Vladas Gaidys, head of Vimorus, a pollster, told BNN that Grybauskaitė embodied image of president that most Lithuanians wants to see. «Independence and toughness. These are the traits she will remain famous for and that are the qualities that most Lithuanians marvel in a president,» he underscored.

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