2019.12.16 12:00

Lithuanian PM's approval rating nosedives following road paving scandal

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis' approval ratings plunged over the last month, losing 8 percentage points since November, a new public survey shows.

In December, 42.9 percent of respondents expressed a favourable opinion about the prime minister, down from 50.7 percent a month before, according to a survey by Vilmorus for the Lietuvos Rytas daily.

Vladas Gaidys, the director of Vilmorus, says the drop might result from a recent news story about the street by Skvernelis' house in Vilnius District which was recently paved under dubious circumstances.

“The drop is almost eight [percentage points] and that is clearly related to the road paving,” he told BNS.

In late October, Vilnius District Municipal Council included Skvernelis' street into its list of streets due for upgrades and the government allocated 300,000 euros for the works five days later. Almost all of the money went toward upgrading Upės Street in the village of Smigliai, where Prime Minister Skvernelis lives.

President Gitanas Nausėda remains the most popular politician in Lithuania, the survey shows, despite his rating going down for a second month in a row. It inched down to 69.3 percent, from 72.8 percent in November. His popularity rating stood at 82.5 percent in October.

Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius comes second this month, with an approval rating of 50.7 percent.

“That is Linkevičius' best-ever result,” the Vilmorus director said.

Speaker of the Seimas Viktoras Pranckietis is third with 45.2 percent (47.6 percent in November), followed by European Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius with the same result (43.3 percent).

PM Skvernelis dropped to the fifth place.

Visvaldas Matijošaitis, the mayor of Lithuania's second-largest city Kaunas, also got into the Top 10 with 40.7 percent (38.1 percent in November), followed by Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis with 30.6 percent (31.1 percent), Labour Party leader Viktor Uspaskich with 28.4 percent (26.1 percent), Liberal Movement leader Viktorija Čmilyte-Nielsen with 28.3 percent (28.5 percent) and Education, Science and Sports Minister Algirdas Monkevičius with 27.4 percent (23.1 percent).

The anti-favourites

Transport Minister Jaroslav Narkevič has consolidated his position as the least popular politician in the country after his popularity rating has been gradually going down in recent months.

Only 5.4 percent had a favourable opinion about the minister and 57.4 percent expressed a negative one in December, up from 34 percent in November and 16.6 percent in October.

“These are probably record changes,” Vilmorus director Gaidys told BNS.

Narkevič, who represents the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania party, became minister last August. He has lately come under fire over the dismissal of the board of the country's state-run postal company Lietuvos Paštas (Lithuanian Post), his recent visit to the UAE, lunches paid for by state companies in Dubai and Minsk, the allocation of funding for paving streets in his own election constituency and by Skvernelis' home, as well circumstances around living at the Seimas hotel.

President Nausėda has indicated he'd like Narkevič to step down, but the minister himself insists he is under organised attack for looking into the problems of Lietuvos Paštas and Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways).

On balance, Narkevič's approval rating stands -52 percent. The two other least popular politicians also represent the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania party: its leader, MEP Valdemar Tomaševski with -47 percent, and Interior Minister Rita Tamašunienė with -42.3 percent.

Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the biggest ruling party, the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, boasts a negative approval rating of -40.1 percent, followed by Gediminas Kirkilas, the leader of the Social Democratic Labour Party, with -33.8 percent.

The Vilmorus survey of 1,021 people was carried out between November 29 and December 7.