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.

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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.

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