“I hope that during the party summit we will pass the new regulations for choosing the Homeland Union’s candidate in the presidential election. I will propose open elections. It is done so in the USA and France where not only party members vote, but also its supporters,” Gabrielius Landsbergis stated.
He says he has several candidates in mind already for taking up the challenge of running for the post of mayor in Vilnius and Kaunas, but does not reveal specific names.
The Conservative leader also has not given up on the idea of changing the party’s name.
On this – a discussion with the recently re-elected Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats Chairman Gabrielius Landsbergis.
- Mr. Landsbergis, many have said that a second round will be needed, your competitors for the post of party chairman were not weak, however you earned 62% of the vote in the first round. How do you view this? What did your party members want to tell you with this?
They answered the main questions I posed. They answered how they view the past two years of renewal, the Seimas election results, refusal to enter the coalition and agreement for the current direction. The last one is a question that is particularly pertinent in order to continue work – whether we will continue to renew, to become more transparent, whether we will aim to join the cities and regions, whether we want to unite the two halves in our party.
- Did you yourself expect that your competitors, for example your clear ideological rival Paulius Saudargas, will not receive even a fifth of the party’s support?
I definitely did not, I admit that wholeheartedly. During both debates and discussions it appeared that there were several differing opinions. I was prepared to review and it was definitely not clear how things will end. Now it is clear that the party supports me and is rather unified.
- Do you not see the risk that these results will affect your opponents, that they will consider departing the party?
I hope not. All three candidates have stated that they intend to continue working together. Of course discussion will be needed how it will proceed, in what projects and what positions. However I have no doubt we will find a means how to work and unity our ideas and differing positions. They are all beneficial to a strong Lithuanian right.
I support Paulius Saudargas’ thoughts of needing to turn to the regions and work with people we have yet to reach.
I support Žygimantas Pavilionis’ thoughts of needing to work with Lithuanian expatriates, encourage them to return. Mykolas Majauskas’ ideas on social sensitivity, halting violence against children and such are also appealing to me. All of these things can definitely find a place in our renewed party.
- Party support is yet another argument for you to continue speaking of a name change because it appears that there are 19% and perhaps another 12% LKD (Lithuanian Christian Democrats)?
I believe that LKD is an important group of letters in our community. I have never said that we should ignore or dismiss the community which joined us and gave us so much. However constant antagonism, escalation that we are two rival groups, is unhealthy and of no benefit to our community.
- You decided that the party name should be Homeland Union and that’s it?
I have said a number of times it is not the prerogative of the chairman. If such a proposal appeared from the bottom, from party members in our summit, I would support it. But I will not be the one to initiate it.
- Given 5539 votes it should be no difficulty to find someone to propose this for you?
I proposed this idea when speaking prior to the election. There was much support. On the other hand I realise it is a sensitive question, that the community still contains two groups. Thus I leave it to the people. If we see that the majority supports this proposal, perhaps the changes could happen quickly.
- There will be no elections in Lithuania for two years. The nearest ones are the municipal elections. Do you already have people in mind who could pursue the posts of mayor in Vilnius and Kaunas?
There are several candidacies that I cannot reveal because it is too early and could harm those people. We have already begun discussions because we do not have the time and luxury to begin preparing with only half a year or several months remaining. A major problem is that not all potential candidates can decide that quickly.
- Are you talking with non-partisan individuals?
With non-partisans as well.
- Which ones could run in Vilnius? Or Kaunas?
I won’t reveal. I would like to stress that I see a future for the Homeland Union where we do not have to have our own candidates everywhere. The time has ended where the most suitable candidate has to be one raised up from the bottom of the party. The example of Ingrida Šimonytė illustrates this perfectly. She won the Seimas elections in her district in the first round despite not being a party member. I believe that we can definitely find people who are known in the region and see themselves as rightists.
- You mentioned only the name of I. Šimonytė. I understand that this is a politician who has great future prospects. One part of the party, perhaps you included, sees her in the post of Vilnius mayor, others as a potential Lithuanian president. It appears that she is not projecting herself as either so far though. An odd situation?
There is still time. You cannot force a candidacy. The person has to decide themselves.
- It would be odd to force a person to become Lithuanian president?
That is what I believe. Some candidates feel that someone is forcing them. If a person feels they are up to the task, feel not the burden of responsibility, but the gift of responsibility, then it is significacntly easier. For now I won’t speculate, there is time yet. But discussions are proceeding.
- It could be that publically you have yet to reveal the name of the future president, but parties are already thinking about it because it is important for the whole political system. You are a potential candidate yourself among those mentioned in public, alongside ambassador Vygaudas Ušackas, I. Šimonytė who was mentioned in the debates by M. Majauskas, Ž. Pavilionis and others. Have you spoken about their potential candidacies and the support of the Homeland Union?
I have spoken about the principle. I hope that during the party summit we will pass the new regulations for choosing the Homeland Union’s candidate in the presidential election. I will propose open elections. It is done so in the USA and France where not only party members vote, but also its supporters. I proposed the idea of an open party where the boundaries of what is the party and what is the people who care about the party’s direction is erased. I believe that we have to go in this direction and one of the ways to reach this is to invite non-partisan voters to vote in such elections.
- However this prevents the possibility of the party to do as it has in previous elections. It did not raise its own candidate and instead supported an independent. Would the party not lose such a possibility?
Not necessarily. An independent candidate could appeal to the party for support because a party is votes, financial support and other things. Such a person can also participate in open elections without even being a member of the party or an expected candidate.
- In other words you want to force the politician, who participates in the presidential elections as the party’s candidate or makes use of the party’s popularity and name, to go through this whole process. Would there be no alternative?
No, there wouldn’t. Of course that is if such regulations are confirmed by the summit.
- You currently have the majority of votes, is it obvious the party will support your ideas?
I certainly hope so. I believe that it is a question of the party’s future. We are now speaking of the presidential election, but I believe that in the same principle we could choose candidates for single mandate districts in Seimas elections. It could be that we would elect the party chairman in open elections. In the Seimas elections we received support from 300 thousand citizens; perhaps not all of them will want to participate in electing the candidate, but I believe there would be a large group who would want a say. I believe that we in Lithuania have matured enough to take the step made by some Western European states.
- What key changes do you wish to make in the party?
We want to strengthen branches, find new leaders and renew branches with new people. We want to reduce barriers that limit people’s admission to branches. Currently you need two recommendations to become a member of the party. I believe that such regulations are flawed and need changing because people are prevented from joining due to formal restrictions.
My vision is for the Homeland Union to become a party based on compromise. During the elections there was much talk of us needing to clarify, speak only in a Christian Democrat or a more moderate voice. I believe that our road is a road of compromise. I believe it is correct. We have showed this by voting in unison on the Basic Children’s Rights Law.
- Some of your party and Seimas group members still expressed support for corporal punishments for children, but they are now silenced to the point of fearing to talk about it. Have there been serious talks with them?
No corporeal punishments were used, but we reached compromise.
- Compromise to stay silent over childcare?
I understand that people have their opinions and assumptions, however I am unafraid of expressing my own as well. We meet halfway – sometimes closer to my positions and sometimes I have to and will have to back down. The main premise is that in the Homeland Union we will not rigidly adhere to our starting positions, we will understand that we have to near the middle. And that middle is something I wish for everyone.
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