Ramūnas Karbauskis, Greta Kildišienė
© DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

After trumpetting their image as a far more transparent, honest and responsible party than those in government earlier, the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (LVŽS) has proved to be no different. Deals, which are difficult to explain, relations that raise questions, funds that do not reflect declarations and attempts to accuse the news media of arrogance and corruption. This is a story of double standards which perhaps would not have surfaced if not for the intent to attack instead of defending. The situation was discussed with communications expert Mykolas Katkus in the show Savaitė on LRT.lt.

- If from the very get go everything in this scandal was presented – the papers, the answers and all the individuals, it could have been avoided?

If taxi drivers begin to hand out public relations advice, you know you are in trouble. Now the same taxi drivers (and not only taxi drivers) are giving public relations advice to Ramūnas Karbauskis and Greta Kildišienė. It is obvious that it is impossible to talk of any communications or public relations management under such circumstances. I believe that R. Karbauskis had not clearly decided how he views this situation.

Firstly he tried to deny the situation, tried claiming it does not exist, then he was greatly angered by everyone who impacted the situation, while currently, based on the classical situation he should be saddened, which is why he is not communicating. There were definitely a hundred and one ways to better resolve this situation after it was announced. We saw a suffering man, one who was greatly hurt – he was seeking ways to escape, but this was done on live broadcast, which is not the best communications tactic.

I believe R. Karbauskis had three ways to resolve the situation. Firstly – to distance himself and immediately focus on the technical details, the car lease itself, present as many documents as possible. Drowning talks of certain relations between him and G. Kildišienė in technical details. Perhaps G. Kildišienė should have immediately cancelled her trip to the USA, perhaps she should have immediately relinquished her mandate as member of Seimas. People do the same things they have to, the issue is that they do them too late, when other already have an opinion.

The second option was to admit the connection. Perhaps not as close as presented, but admit that Agrokoncernas helps many and G. Kildišienė was one of the recipients. Why was she chosen? Well, they could have said that “we had certain relations, interacted, but nothing happened, I love my family, but there were certain relations, so we helped her obtain a car under eased conditions.”
Algirdas Brazauskas acted simply in a similar situation – he just married Kristina Brazauskienė after admitting the relationship. As far as I recall his ratings did not suffer from the story. Everyone said that “if a man has a beautiful woman close and wants to marry her, all the better for everyone”. Politics is a terrible specialty because you no longer have your own life – no deal you have made, no contract of yours is innocent. And all of this can and will be used against you, if the time comes.

- So you want to say that this whole scandal is not a failure of LVŽS or Greta Kildišienė, but just Ramūnas Karbauskis?

You have to agree with R. Karbauskis that G. Kildišienė is not uninteresting. She is a person whose name was only known by about 2% of the Lithuanian population a week ago. On the other hand this case shows that if he is unable to answer a simple question of what happened with that car, is unable to present a simple version, then can he be trusted when more serious talks happen? This is a part of a crisis of trust.

If the first few days allowed talks of this crisis not lasting because it lacks content, then the denial, the attacking and the search for enemies now move on to the stage where it starts to harm both Karbauskis and the LVŽS itself.

The longer it lasts, the larger the portion of centrist voters “close off”. Not permanently, the Seimas term is long, we will not see elections for a long while yet. I would not overestimate those ratings, but it is a fact – the faster this story ends, the better for Karbauskis and his party.

- You mean to say that in the short term it will have an influence, but can be recovered from in the future?

I believe that the party gathered votes based on two different slogans. Firstly the “Peasants” were long seen as a traditional force which had yet to enter government. On the other hand a significant portion of voters decided in the last moment by “leaving” the Social Democrat Party, which they supported in surveys.

According to my information the factor of Saulius Skvernelis was greater than R. Karbauskis. Skvernelis is seen as a safe candidate, almost like A. Butkevičius – an honest and moral state official.It was him that raised a large portion of the LVŽS’ ratings. Of course S. Skvernelis’ situation is currently very good – among the two candidates he remains the only invulnerable one.

If their relations with Ramūnas are good, the party can for now continue to gather around him while Ramūnas licks his wounds and can come back.

- The problem is that what is happening in real life clashes with what was declared about honesty and other positions. Thus everything sticks and talks do not adhere to actions.

You are very correct if we are to talk about journalists, public elites. But among simpler voters who delve into politics less, they think that the Lithuanian government cheats, is bad. The voter thinks that it is hard for a regular person to live in Lithuania, so they think that R. Karbauskis has come to help.

He has money, could even say that he did not even take the car from the government, but gave it himself. What’s the big deal? The man can afford to buy it. In the end his wife left for Spain. So what? There’s another wife. Lithuania is not a country, like the USA, where adultery scandals crush political careers and close the path to appointments for a long time.

- Morals do not appear to be an issue for anyone in Lithuania.

Thinking of it, perhaps that is the case. In Lithuania what matters is not who the politician is, but what they will do. While R. Karbauskis and the LVŽS show people that they are capable of doing something for them, I believe their ratings will not experience a drastic decline and they will have good hopes of recovery. If people see that they cannot help out, this story will return like a boomerang and hit like “oh, boy”.

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