explained what becomes the Achilles heel of power

According to political scientists, it is clear that the increase in protests in recent years is due to the changed global situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, during the years of the government led by I. Šimonytė, public dissatisfaction was expressed on other issues as well – almost the biggest rallies arose over the ratification of the Law on Partnership and the Istanbul Convention.

Rima Urbonaitė, a political scientist at Mykolas Romeris University, says that the fact that the Prime Minister has put more divisive issues on the political agenda than ever before has contributed to rallies that have not been seen before. Meanwhile, in the opinion of Professor Tomas Janeliūnas of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University (VU TSPMI), the fact that the public felt the power to contribute to decisions could have contributed to the protests.

“We have not reached the level we can see in Greece or France, where there is almost constant protest over all sorts of things, but in part society feels more empowered that collective action can have a political result and politicians react to protests,” T said. Janeliūnas.

However, both R. Urbonaitė and T. Janeliūnas do not see continuity in the protests. According to political scientists, it can be noticed that the protesters are gradually exhaling.

T. Janeliūnas: Negative public reactions were caused by atypical decisions

Professor T. Janeliūnas states that the main reason for intensified protests under the Government led by I. Šimonytė is obvious – public outrage at the strict requirements in the fight against the pandemic.

“The situation has changed fundamentally with the onset of the pandemic, which has required very atypical solutions and constraints. A situation arose to which society was not accustomed. The reactions were to the changed general situation and not to the arrival of a specific government, ”said VU TSMI professor.

T. Janeliūnas is also supported by R. Urbonaitė, a political scientist at Mykolas Romeris University. According to her, public dissatisfaction with the leadership of I. Šimonyte increased not so much due to specific political decisions as due to the circumstances.

“The protests by the Skvernell government were due to very specific political decisions, such as the introduction of full-time teacher pay, which led to the so-called occupation of the ministry. The protest of Bassti was also due to completely different circumstances, it was quite a reactive action, a reaction to one or another decision made in the Government or the Seimas, ”said R. Urbonaitė.

“The government of Šimonytė is facing a completely different kind of protest, which is very correlated with the protests that are taking place in other countries as well. We see certain global phenomena that have occurred before Lithuania, therefore, it is natural that the intensity is unusual, ”the political scientist added.

S. Skvernel’s mistakes may have contributed to the increased protests

Nevertheless, R. Urbonaitė emphasizes that different communication of the prime ministers may have contributed to the more intense public outrage. According to political scientists, both S. Skvernelis and I. Šimonytė had to make a decision on the introduction of quarantine, but the prime ministers did it in different ways.

“During the first quarantine introduced by Squirrel, everyone was afraid, disciplined and most people complied with the quarantine requirements even in the summer when the restrictions were lifted. The government was doing very little at the time and preparations for a possible second wave were sluggish. With no communication from the government, conspiracy theories flourished, they flourished, and when the numbers of diseases began to rise in the fall, the government delayed until the last day in order not to introduce completely strict quarantine. And only Ingrida Šimonytė introduced a completely strict quarantine when the hospitals were overcrowded, ”said R. Urbonaitė.

According to R. Urbonaitė, the sluggish communication of the ex-prime minister and the delay in introducing stricter restrictions became a difficult process to control, and the Government headed by I. Šimonytė had to take responsibility for informing the public and changing the approach to pandemic management.

“In a way, Skvernell slipped because at the same time he had the full support of the public and was maneuvering, not introducing the kind of quarantine that needed to be introduced. A few months ago, even Aurelijus Veryga admitted in one show that it was a mistake, ”said R. Urbonaitė.

“When the second year of the pandemic began and there was a lot of tension, conspiracy theories rushed in from all angles, and it was natural that people’s reactions to all demands, vaccines, quarantine and protection became a difficult process to manage, leading to protests. Thus, the stages of the pandemic that Šimonytė and Skvernelis went through are very different, ”R. Urbonaitė added.

T. Janeliūnas states that the intensification of protests may have been more influenced not by the communication of the Prime Ministers, but by the changed public attitude towards the pandemic. According to him, people’s fears about the COVID-19 virus have been replaced by fatigue, which has led to a sharper response to the relevant pandemic management processes.

“The first quarantine introduced by the Squirrel Government would be shock therapy. The public was just trying to understand what was going on. For the first two months, people tried to adapt to completely new circumstances and no one thought too much about the protests (…). When there came some such ups and downs, the reactions were different. The public did not like some of the solutions and, consequently, there were more and more groups who spoke out against vaccinations, against new conditions for restrictions and against passports. That, I think, the protests were built up gradually. Every restriction provokes a reaction, it reduces trust in the Government, because those accusations are accumulating and, naturally, the society is already tired, ”said T. Janeliūnas.

“Thus, no matter which Government has been, in one way or another the society would have reacted much more sensitively to the decisions that any Government would have made,” T. Janeliūnas added.

The government led by I. Šimonytė had to withstand not only the protests related to the pandemic, but also the controversial protest campaign “Family March” against the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, equal rights of gender and LGBT community in society. thousands of people. According to R. Urbonaitė, the increased number of protests may have been determined by the changed political agenda of the Government.

“LGBT protests would have been in the past if they had been put on the political agenda. The political agenda in these respects has really begun to change. When such issues appear on the political agenda, it is natural that the protests are provoked, ”said R. Urbonaitė.

Political scientists agree: although the reasons for the protests are different, the prime ministers’ communication was similar

According to T. Janeliūnas, both I. Šimonytė and S. Skvernelis chose the way to ignore the society outraged by the decisions made. However, this was also due to different groups of protesters.

“We should start with the fact that the protest groups were very different. Teachers were able to be supported by the majority of the public and the demands were understood, and support for them was much greater than for the now protesting anti -axists. “The current Government does not seem to expect too much that they will be able to persuade or change their position, it is natural that they chose to ignore the communication and at the same time have arguments for the part of the society that the Government needs to support,” said T. Janeliūnas.

However, in T. Janeliūnas’ opinion, when the public expressed specific fears about the decisions made, S. Skvernelis was forced to take more decisive decisions and not ignore the outraged society.

“In the end, the Skvernel government needed to take more decisive decisions, as it was seen that the general reaction of the public was already negative and was waiting for a decision to be made (on the remuneration of teachers – ELTA). Šimonytė is not expected to talk to antivaxis and make any discounts to them, ”added T. Janeliūnas.

R. Urbonaitė also notes that both prime ministers chose to ignore the society, but S. Skvernelis made decisions not directly, but through responsible persons. According to R. Urbonaitė, I. Šimonytė could have chosen a similar strategy.

“Let’s say Skvernell did not go with the teachers, did not explain, acted through other people and resolved the conflict indirectly, and the situation is different with Shimonythe. You really don’t have to go talk to people who have built bitterness because that talk can do nothing. If people want to see you screaming at you, that’s not the solution here. However, I think it was also possible to choose to communicate in a neutral environment or through intermediaries, ”said Mykolas Romeris University political scientist.

According to R. Urbonaitė, both I. Šimonytė and S. Skvernelis’ Government did not have proper communication. According to her, communication with the protesting prime ministers became Achilles’ heel.

“I think that the two prime ministers lacked communication very much, there was a lack of clarity about the vaccination campaign, it basically did not take place or really did not go as it should have, but of course other countries do not find good recipes for communication. There are no easy roads, but I think political communication in general is becoming the Achilles heel, both it was the Achilles heel for Squirrel and it is the Achilles heel for the current government. “No one can really be praised here for the smoothness, purposefulness and good preparation of communication,” said R. Urbonaitė.

He sees no potential in the protests that have arisen

However, T. Janeliūnas does not tend to emphasize the increased number of protests. Although there were many protests compared to other states, they were not large in their coverage.

“Still, a very small part of the public is so upset or determined to protest to take concrete action. Compared to other countries, the share of people actively participating in protests in Lithuania is still not very large. On the one hand, it shows that the government is coping with the challenges. On the other hand, it shows that there are more important things in society and they still trust the authorities’ ability to solve problems, ”said T. Janeliūnas.

R. Urbonaitė is also reluctant to consider the increased number of protests as a problem. In addition, in her view, the sudden increase in the number of protests is generally taking a breather.

“We see that protest is becoming a normal phenomenon, a normal phenomenon. Seeing the protests from this spring to the autumn of this year, I would be very careful with the conclusions that we will start to see a different face of protest, ”said R. Urbonaitė.

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