Lithuanian PM's presidential election pitch -- he has children

Prime Minsiter Saulius Skvernelis is trying to differentiate himself from the incumbent, Dalia Grybauskaitė, in the upcoming presidential election.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Lithuania
Lithuanian PM's presidential election pitch -- he has children - NewsMavens
Dalia Grybauskaitė, Saulius Skvernelis, Ingrida Šimonytė, Wikimedia Commons and YouTube

Why this story matters:

Saulius Skvernelis, the prime minister of Lithuania, has recently announced that he will be running in the forthcoming presidential election. Presidents are elected directly, and Skvernelis wants to capitalize on his popularity as the leader of a technocratic government, which risks becoming an all-male one unless he manages to find a willing and able female minister for the environment. Now he is facing additional criticism, after having made a statement that it's time to end the era of "child-free" presidents.

"It's time to hear jubilant children's laughter and feel the warmth of a family in the cold palace of the head of state," he said at a ruling party gathering.

The current president, Dalia Grybauskaitė, is serving her second term after stonewalling numerous attempts to bully her into disclosing details of her private life or shame her for not having children. Her predecessor, Valdas Adamkus, a Lithuanian-American environmentalist, was married but had no children either. The last time Lithuania had a president with children was during the term of Rolandas Paksas, who in 2004 became the first European president to be impeached.

Many see Skvernelis's statement as not primarily aimed at Grybauskaitė, who is dubbed the Iron Lady for good reason and probably could not care less, but is rather targeting his competitor, Ingrida Šimonytė (see her profile here). The popular conservative economist and presidential candidate, recently opened up in television interviews about organizing her life around caring for her severely disabled mother ever since her father's death. As an MP, Šimonytė makes sure to find time for her mother, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, several times a day.

Details from the story:

  • Addressing ruling party members, Saulius Skvernelis claimed that the country currently needs a president who knows what having a family means. "Only a person who loves and is loved can be responsible and take care of others," he said.
  • On her Facebook profile, competing presidential candidate Ingrida Šimonytė wrote that she took the comment personally. She added that she did have a family to care for -- her ailing mother. "But perhaps he considers this to be some inferior form of life, not a family," she added.
  • Political scientist Rima Urbonaitė, commenting on the statements, called the PM's remarks discriminatory and "cheap". In her view, he wants to appeal to the masses that want a "fatherly" president.
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