Ruling Farmers and Greens strike deal with opposition Conservatives, irk Social Democrats
The foundation of Lithuania’s ruling coalition consisting of the Farmers and Greens (LFGU)s and the Social Democrats are crumbling, but the fall might not come, at least so soon as some predict.
The Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) will likely decide in late September or early October whether or not to stay in power with the LFGU, Gintautas Paluckas, the LSDP chairman, said on Wednesday, July 12.
The party leader accentuated that he would propose that the LSDP presidium ask the party's council to discuss this issue.
«I will propose that the presidium turn to the council, where we will hold broad discussions. The council will take the key decision when it convenes in late September to early October,» he said at an online conference hosted by 15min.lt, a Lithuanian online new portal.
The LSDP presidium includes around 50 leading members of the party and the council has five times as many members. Paluckas unveiled the plans a day after the LFGU, the senior coalition partner, and the opposition Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HULCD) signed a deal under which the ruling party pledged to reintroduce a reduced VAT rate on district heating in exchange for the opposition party's votes in favour of a state-owned forestry sector overhaul.
The LFGU needs opposition votes to pass the amendments to the Law on Forests as the LSDP, the junior coalition partner, does not back the government's proposed forest sector overhaul.
Clearly dismayed, Paluckas slammed the senior coalition partner, alleging that the coalition is « incapacitated».
«The government works under conditions of being minority. One cannot evaluate otherwise the agreement (between the greens and conservatives), as coalition partners usually seek consensus within their coalition, not outside in the opposition parties,» the LSDP leader said.
However, Karbauskis insisted that he coalition is not changing.
«The LFGU and the Social Democratic Party (LSDP) continue to work in the coalition,» Ramūnas Karbauskis said at a joint news briefing with Gabrielius Landsbergis, the HULCD leader. «The coalition parties differ on this issue (of the forest sector overhaul), but what is happening now shows that we manage to find support in the Seimas for all of the proposals formed by this government -- either with the votes of the coalition members or with the help of the opposition,» he added.
The deal calls for passing amendments to the Law on Forests by the end of the current parliamentary session as part of Lithuania's efforts to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). PM Skvernelis described the deal as «acting in the strategic interests of the state». Meanwhile, Gabrielius Landsbergis poked fun at Paluckas‘ statement on a possible pullout from the ruling coalition, saying the LSDP leader is «aimlessly quivering air». «I believe that no one takes the Paluckas talks seriously. It seems to me that the Social Democratic party itself does not gravely accept Paluckas. The Social Democrats will cling on power at any price. I believe the party’s heavy-weights will show him where he is supposed to stand and will stay there in the corner with his opinion. For me, he is a nominal party chairman,» Landsbergis lambasted his Social Democratic colleague. According to the HULCD chairman, divorce is painful in «any family“and neither the Farmers nor the Social Democrats are «ready» for it.
Pressed by the journalist whether he does not feel like a «proactive lover» after signing the Wednesday deal with the Farmers and Greens, Landsbergis shot back that he acted as a «friendly neighbour» who helps family when sees that it needs help.
To a remark by a Delfi.lt journalist that the «neighbour» not just helped the «family» with moving the furniture, but, in fact, has scrambled in the pair’s bed, Landsbergis shunned a direct answer, affirming his belief that the coalition will remain.
«Look what Karbauskis keeps reiterating – that the relations with the Social Democrats are improving every day. I cannot certainly vouch, but from what I see, the Social Democrats will stay in the coalition, castigating it and blaming the senior partners for failure of reforms and the ineffective government,» the Conservatives leader said. Meanwhile, Juozas Olekas, a stalwart LSDP member and a member of the party‘s parliamentary fraction, has accused the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union and the opposition Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats of trading of influence. «What we see today is almost official trading in influence. I heard the head of one political group saying, 'If you back this bill, we'll back that bill, if you support this, we'll support that,» he told the parliament during debates on draft amendments to the Law on Forests.
The opinions of Lithuanian political analysts on the near future of the ruling coalition differ starkly.
The majority, however, are convinced the Social Democrats will not leave it because of the perks the party receives while in power. Some, however, argued that the relations between the two ruling parties have been so fragile for long that virtually any, even a little hurdle on the way can derail the carriage.
«I‘d rather would not hurry with the forecasts of the coalition‘s end. To my view, the assertive tone that the Social Democrats‘ leader Paluckas assumed is barely an attempt to strengthen his positions, sort of a political show, aimed at attracting more attention to the party and him, too,» Tomas Janeliūnas, professor at the Institute of International Relations and Political Sciences, Vilnius University, told BNN. According to him, the LSDP dissatisfaction with the LFGU-orchestrated coalition‘s decisions is «understandable», but, with the parliamentarians‘ furlough around the corner, the tensions will calm down and the Social Democrats will come to understanding that, for now, it is better to stay in power. «Being in power allow to influence the decision making and be knowledgeable of what is going on, so my guess the Social Democrats will stay,» Janeliūnas emphasised. Speaking to BNN, Andžeij Pukšto, associated professor at Kaunas Vytautas Magnus University, claimed that the coalition had already broken apart and is held together by a «fragile thread».
«The Social Democrats, however, have to step the last step and make the official announcement. It seems to me the Social Democrats are split on the question – whether to stay in power or not. I believe it makes no sense for the Social Democrats to stay any longer in it as they are being pushed around in it by the senior coalition partners,» Pukšto disagreed with Janeliūnas. Even both parties‘ ways go different ways the analyst believes they will stay on good terms.
«It is likely that the Farmers will form a minority government, but, being such, it will need to secure a support from the other parliamentary fractions. It is more likely that the Social Democrats, not the Conservatives, will come in rescue when it will matter most, but in this kind of cases, the farmers will have to make bigger concessions in exchange of support,» the analyst predicted. Mažvydas Jastramskis, another analyst and a lecturer at the Institute of International Relations and Political Sciences at Vilnius University, contemplated that the Paluckas reaction was triggered by «emotions». «If he really wanted to withdraw from the coalition, he should have done it with the next step after the statement, but he did not. It is in the interests of seasoned Social Democrats to be in power. For Paluckas, who is not a Parliament member, it can be pretty hard to make the decision on the pulling out without the party stalwarts’ approval,» the analyst said.