Saulius Skvernelis
© DELFI / Domantas Pipas

With the public impatient for its expectations to be met, the cabinet's ratings remain low.

Based on a survey performed on June 19-26 by public opinion and market research company Spinter Tyrimai, the government's ratings remain stably low. Last month the number of those viewing the cabinet positively, compared to data from April, decreased by 11.7%.

In May the percentage of those viewing the cabinet positively or likely positively was 27%, while in June it reached 27.9%. Respectively the percentages of those inclined negatively or likely negatively a month ago was 55.4% versus June's 63%. The portion of those unsure or not answering decreased from 17.6% to 9.1%.

Furthermore Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis' ratings declined by 3.7% from 31% to 27.3%. Nevertheless he retains a solid lead from his nearest competitor, conservative leader Gabrielius Landsbergis, whose ratings in May were 6%, up to 8.2% in June.

The Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS) ratings decreased from a rating of 19% in May to 17.8% in June. Its nearest competitor made gains, rising from 13.1% to 15.6% in the respective period.

Patience worn thin

Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science (VU TSPMI) docent Mažvydas Jastramskis explains the cabinet, "Farmer" and Prime Minister's ratings through the failure to fulfil the public's high expectations.

"If an impression is made that reforms will be performed, but the reforms do not touch upon the core problems that matter to the people, and people are mainly concerned with socioeconomic problems, things like large prices, unsatisfactory wages or lack of good employment opportunities, naturally the store of goodwill for the cabinet will deplete," M. Jastramskis said.

The expert noted an impression that based on current ratings, it is a return to the situation during the elections where there are three notable major and three smaller parties.

Based on the Spinter Tyrimai survey, other than the LVŽS and TS-LKD, the top three of Lithuanian parties is also occupied by the Social Democrats who rose from 11.6% support in May to 12.8% support in June.

The three smaller parties are the Liberal Movement, support for whom rose from 6.5% in May to 7.5% in June, the Order and Justice party, respectively from 4.5% to 6% and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, respectively from 3.5% to 4.7%. The Lithuanian Centre Union's rating shifted from 3% to 3.3%.

A situation like before the elections

The political scientist reminded that the "Farmers" received 19 mandates in the first round of Seimas elections last autumn. Delfi reminds that back then the party received 21.55% of the vote. The party won the second round by a landslide due to, the expert notes, voters voting strategically against other parties. Thus their actual support is not all that large.

Furthermore the analyst pointed out this government's unique point – most of its ministers are technocrats, whose popularity is not based on support among the public and depend on how well they enact and communicate reforms.

"In this respect you cannot say that happened. There was confusion and poor communication and the reforms were not those the public cared about most," M. Jastramskis concluded.

The political scientist pointed out that the forestry reform's importance is very differently understood by analysts, journalists and the public, which doesn't even have a clear opinion on whether they should be abolished or not. The public supported alcohol restrictions, but not price increases. In general from the adoption of the euro, the topic of price increases has been stigmatised.

"Those strict measures appealed to the people who voted for the "Farmers" In the first round of elections there were not that many of those people, thus they remain, but erosion is ongoing firstly due to the mass of voters who do not have clearly defined views, perhaps voted for the "Farmers" or perhaps not in the second round and they have shifted to the column of "I do not know" or did not answer upon seeing a lack of fast decisions," M. Jastramskis said.

Clashes hamper communication

Vilnius University Department of Communication docent Andrius Šuminas stated that S. Skvernelis' communication, compared to his predecessors, is notable for its bluntness. The PM does not sugar-coat his words, makes use of irony and quips.

"In this regard S. Skvernelis stands out compared to previous PM's, this is not really typical communication for a politician," A. Šuminas said.

The expert evaluated the cabinet and its decisions' communication as rather weak. "The frequent clashes between both members of the cabinet or the Seimas and cabinet do not contribute weight to the cabinet. Often it appears fairly comedic when ministers themselves, politicians do not coordinate and communicate very different things," A. Šuminas said.

The political communication expert also found the cabinet's efforts to explain to the public, what benefit the changes it initiates will bring, lacking. According to him, this could be seen in terms of both alcohol restrictions and higher education questions.

"It is clear that such things do not contribute to confidence in the cabinet and naturally, S. Skvernelis, being the head of cabinet, is associated with the entirety of the cabinet and its decisions, while the cabinet's ratings are linked to the PM's," A. Šuminas said.

The public opinion and market research company Spinter Tyrimai performed the survey on June 19-26, 2017 under commission of the Delfi news portal. Respondents were aged 18 to 75. The survey was performed on the basis of a standardised interview.

The research was performed across the country at 65 survey points, distributed so as to represent the entirety of the country's territory. 1012 respondents were interviewed during the research. The distribution of respondents is proportional to the population in the country's regions. The research result error is 3.1%.

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