In a bizarre twist of political fate and for the first time ever in the history of a free Lithuania, a Lithuanian citizen of Polish descent is running for the office of President of the Republic of Lithuania. Valdemar Tomaševski (better known as Waldemar Tomaszewski), will audaciously be trying to convince Lithuanians that he is the right man for Lithuania’s top job. Audacious because, not only is Tomaszewski openly pro-Polish (he is head of the minority party Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (AWPL)) but he holds a Polish Card which is an official document issued by the Polish authorities to foreign nationals confirming their ‘connection’ to Poland.
Tomaszewski or Tomaševski
Not only is Tomaszewski’s political nous being questioned but also the formal requirements for him to be allowed to be a presidential candidate. Several Lithuanian parliamentarians have questioned his loyalty to Lithuania due to the fact that he possesses the afore-mentioned Polish Card and the fact that he represents a minority ethnic group within the country. This issue was so controversial that it was put to Lithuania’s Central Election Committee who, in the end, decided, nine votes to four, that Tomaszewski/Tomaševski can be a presidential candidate.
Unity or Division
Although Tomaszewski/Tomaševski stands no chance of winning Lithuania’s presidential elections (which begin on May 17th), he has once again touched upon the problem of identity in an ever-homogeneous European Union. What is the definition of nationality? Tomaszewski/Tomaševski holds a Lithuanian passport but he also holds a Polish Card and is of Polish descent. He speaks Polish and has a Polish name. Perhaps, the way forward is to accept these differences and use the distinction that is often used in Poland, that of obywatelstwo and narodowość (citizenship and nationality/ethnicity). Vive la différence?