2019.12.30 10:00

Lithuania's 2019 milestones: new president, Venice Biennale, Soviet aggression verdict – survey

BNS 2019.12.30 10:00

President Gitanas Nausėda's victory in the presidential election has been named the most important event of 2019 in Lithuania, according to a BNS survey of Lithuanian journalists.

The top 5 list also includes the devastating fire in Alytus, Lithuania's triumph at the Venice Biennale, the judicial corruption scandal and the verdict in the January 13 Soviet agression case.

"Nauseda's victory opens a new page in Lithuania's politics," said Vaidotas Beniušis, chief editor at BNS. However, "a lack of experience and support in the Seimas are [preventing the president] to have a significant impact on internal politics [and] fulfill the election 'welfare state' promises."

The other key 2019 events include the Lithuanian-Russian-Norwegian spy swap, the controversy surrounding Jonas Noreika memorial plaque, the reburial of the 1863-1864 uprising participants, the municipal election and the legalisation of an individual constitutional complaint.

Read more: Lithuanian, Polish and Belarusian leaders pay tribute to January Uprising commanders in Vilnius – photos

LRT TV journalist Vykintas Pugačiauskas said that Nausėda's victory and the disputes regarding Noreika's commemoration reflect the "new key axis of political conflict between liberalism and conservatism in line with Western tendencies".

Read more: Accusations against Noreika are ‘outrageous’, but we shouldn’t ‘heroize controversial figures’ – experts

Lithuanian journalists believe protests in Hong Kong, climate change demonstrations, the election of Volodymyr Zelensky as the Ukrainian president, changes in the United Kingdom's government and the impeachment of US President Donald Trumps are the 2019 events having greatest significance to the world.

The survey involved 30 journalists from the LRT, TV3, LNK and Info TV television channels, the,,,,, and Kas Vyksta Kaune news websites, the Žinių Radijas and Znad Wilii radio stations, the Lietuvos Rytas, Verslo Žinios, Tauragės Kurjeris newspapers, the IQ magazine, BNS news agency and journalists working for international media.

The presidential election was named the most significant event by 24 respondents. 15 picked the huge fire at a tire recycling facility in Alytus, while 13 journalists named the Golden Lion award received by Lithuanian artists at the Venice Biennale and the judicial corruption case. Another 10 mentioned the verdict in the January 13 Soviet aggression case.

An independent candidate, economist Nausėda secured a decisive victory in the May presidential election after defeating his rival, MP Ingrida Šimonytė who represented the conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, in 60 municipalities.

Stasys Gudavicius, a political commentator from the Verslo Žinios business daily, says the new president is "in some way similar to ex-President Valdas Adamkus during his second term".

"It [...] means that the presidential institution, as it supposed to be in a parliamentary state, moved to the political background," the commentator said.

Aurimas Perednis, a journalist at the Žinių Radijas news radio, said "the change in the power centre have major impact on internal politics, despite the fact that president's powers are constitutionally restricted."