What Paksas expects: no expenses spared for the litas return campaign
© Asmeninis archyvas

Rolandas Paksas' movement I call the Nation has started its first communications campaign – billboards presenting it have appeared in sixteen locations in Lithuania's cities and on the Vilnius – Kaunas highway. Some 19 thousand euro have been set aside for this communications campaign.

The billboard displays the civic movement's name. On an orange background, the question "Do you support returning the litas?" is spelled out in large white letters. At the side – a picture of R. Paksas.

The politician himself says that the goal of the advertising campaign is to raise the question of returning the litas. He was unwilling to discuss further plans.

"What we will seek later, we will see," R. Paksas stated.

Board member of the I Call the Nation movement Vidmantas Staniulis stated that there are 16 such billboards: in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai, Panevėžys and on the Vilnius – Kaunas highway. They will be up for a month, up to November 26.

"This is a project linked with presenting the name of the civic movement. The board has decided that the project should be continued for a month. For now, I do not know of other projects," V. Staniulis stated.

According to him, based on the project's contract, 19 thousand euro have been set aside. He could not state precisely, who would finance it. Apparently, the movement is only starting and so far, only around 200 euro has been spent for formalities related to founding the movement. The movement's founders paid these.

"It is planned for the movement's participants and founders to contribute to the project based on their capacities. The account has just been opened and to be honest, I have not had a look at it yet," V. Staniulis stated.

According to him, the association has 10 founders and 5 board members. Only two politicians are among the founders – MEP Rolandas Paksas and MP Rimas Andrikis.

Seeking to evoke nostalgia

Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science professor Tomas Janeliūnas stated that if one wanted to answer, how much protest electorate, which would be influenced by questions of returning the litas, there is in Lithuania, research is necessary.

However, he did not deny that this does draw the attention of the part of the public, which reacts sensitively to price changes and are still comparing prices to those present when the litas was the national currency.

"Outdoors advertising is specifically intended for this, targeting not some more advanced part of the public, which uses the internet more, but the less educated, less using modern information technologies part of the public.

His goal is likely to simply rally or influence people, who still remember the time of the litas and litas prices with nostalgia. Nothing else. Most likely, Paksas himself does not quite grasp what it would entail to try and implement such aims in practice," T. Janeliūnas said.

According to the political scientist, R. Paksas wishes to return to the Lithuanian political scene and have a chance to run for Seimas, perhaps president as well.

"But from what we see of voting in Seimas, it is not all that simple, you cannot just do it. Most likely there are no other ambitions because he is without a party, all on his own and likely his only goal is to maintain overall fame so that at the end of his term as a member of European Parliament, he would have a chance of political survival," T. Janeliūnas said.

The political scientist does not see much hope for R. Paksas to perform well in the European Parliament elections.

"Parties and other electoral rolls can aim for seats in the European Parliament only if they receive no less than 7-8% of the vote, this is already quite a major barrier and it is hard to imagine R. Paksas could overcome it," T. Janeliūnas stated.

Trying to rise again under a new flag

Meanwhile, public relations agency Nova Media head Arijus Katauskas was less inclined to dismiss R. Paksas' chances. He pointed out R. Paksas' efforts to associate with the new name.

"He needs to first of all present himself to as much as possible of society. That there is such a movement, that it is linked with him and not with the Order and Justice Party, which was once his party," A. Katauskas stated.

To this end, the politician has made communications moves, which the expert sees as decently chosen. In his opinion, the movement's name I call the Nation is suitably formulated, there is a poetic element to it.

"A uniting message is embedded in the communication itself, sounding like a question, but part of the audience, which isn't all that small, which complains greatly that prices rose after adopting the euro, they notice it more," A. Katauskas said.

In his opinion, the communication channel of billboards was also well chosen.

"While on one hand, it is often said that it is a fairly localised matter, but it is often employed for political advertising. Locations have been chosen, where numerous people pass by and it is clear that the expectations for this are high.

I believe that it would be hard to imagine that any small political power could do this with no basis, calculations and in the end – finance. I believe that R. Paksas and his team are calculating here, how many votes this will turn into," A. Katauskas said.

According to him, it is not clear yet whether this team will nominate candidates in the municipal elections, but he noted, "The European Parliament elections are not far off."

"All these matters combine and you have to start on them fairly early – for early association. If earlier he was associated with Order and Justice, now he has to associate with the new movement and this costs money," A. Katauskas said.

According to him, the most effective path was chosen.

"This is because television requires funding on another level. If we were to talk about online channels, that's completely not his audience. Thus, it appears that this movement has no other path than this advertising. Plus, it is necessary to watch regional press, regional appearances, it could be that there will be much communication concentrated there," A. Katauskas said.

In his opinion, this is a part of a long-term communications strategy, not just simple advertising.

"Keeping in mind that next to him, there will be people certainly familiar to a certain audience. Keeping in mind that there will be the municipal and European Parliament elections, in my opinion you cannot dismiss that he will not gather an audience. It is necessary to emphasise that R. Paksas is a unique individual in Lithuanian politics and a certain part of the public may not have a negative opinion of him. If it will be scattered or if he will manage to rally it, that's the question. But it is a fact that this is one of the most familiar faces," A. Katauskas said.

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