Linas Jegelevicius for the BNN
The first attempt to get the Non-Taxable Income Increase Party (NTIIP) registered has failed, but Naglis Puteikis, the outlandish MP of the Lithuanian Parliament and one of the spearheads of the party, is unfazed.
«We will give it another try. And if it does not work, there is an alternative: swarm (in larger numbers) a small party, boost it to a size of a big one and then get the name changed the way we want,» the Lithuanian lawmaker revealed to BNN.
Discrepancies in party founding papers
The Lithuanian Ministry of Justice has, however, refused to register the new political entity, casting a doubt on the authenticity of some of the submitted documents for registration.
Having reviewed data of 2385 party members, all of who participated in the founding convention in early January, the ministry officials claim they found significant inconsistencies in the papers.
«Some of the names, family names and personal codes do not match the data we have in our registry. Out of 2,385 party member applications, only 1,888 records look right,» the ministry said in the statement.
According to Lithuanian laws, 2,000 valid applications of are required to greenlight the start of a new political party.
In the statement, the ministry also pointed out to «obscurity» and «inaccuracy» in the provided documentation.
«It remains unclear how the party’s governing bodies are formed. The documentation left out the party’s objectives and some of the provisions in the party statute are not reconciled,» the ministry explained the refusal.
Ministry wants scholars to weigh in on the name
But what drew the NTIIP founders’ exasperation was the ministry’s appeal to Lithuanian scholars with a request to clarify whether the new party, if registered under the name, will not mislead the public.
«That’s unheard of,» Puteikis felt angry. «We are going to ask scholars to weigh in on the appropriateness of the name of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party. The policies it carries out have nothing to do with true social democratic principles, to say the least.»
Echoing, Gema Umbrasienė, one of the NTIIP leaders, sneered at the officials, saying that a single field where «unconditional perfectness» is required in Lithuania is formation of political parties.
«We sincerely hope that the striving for perfectness will be transferred to all the other fieldsof our public life, particularly in the field of state governance,» she quipped.
Lithuanians are paying too high taxes
Puteikis, a former conservative party member who garnered a whopping 9 percent as an independent in the 2014 presidential election, says the party aims to fight social injustice and narrow gaping gaps in the population’s income.
«Our most needy people are still paying high taxes – the highest ones in the entire European Union, as a matter of fact. Thousands of people in Lithuania cannot afford basic things. One of the party’s missions is to do all the explaining about our taxes. People have to understand that the taxes they are paying are unjust. Lithuania is among a few countries where the low-income population has to pay income tax,» Puteikis told.
Party looks forward to a new convention
Non-Taxable Income Increase Party is supposed to make the required corrections in the documentation until April 7.
«By the day the party must have all the registration documentation right. If not, it will not be eligible for the election,» said Zenonas Vaigauskas, the chairman of Lithuania’s Central Electoral Commission, a watchdog of elections in Lithuania.
The party held its founding convention in the city of Panevėžys in early January. Reportedly, 2,600 persons participated in it.
Following the news on the refusal to register the party, Nijolė Giedraitienė, the NTIIP chairwoman, told BNN the new founding convention will be called in the «nearest future.»
«The main thing is to change the party statute the way we were requested. All the other discrepancies are effectively about technical mistakes. During the month after the first convention we did spot ourselves some mistakes and omissions in the documents, too. They will be corrected,» the party leader assured.
Puteikis keeps ace in his pocket
She belongs to the Puteikis-led Naglis Puteikis’ Societal Election Committee, which claimed nearly 50 mandates in local Councils in the municipal elections last year.
Puteikis is also confident that the party can straighten out all the discrepancies in the documents and hopes that the ministry in its decision will go by the documentation, not by what he calls«a politically-charged agenda.»
«Even if the latter turns out to be the case, we have some ace in the pocket,» he hinted when speaking to BNN.
Asked to explain what he meant, the eccentric Lithuanian lawmaker revealed that, if the officials refuse to register party, he will find «a small formally-functioning party» which will be «deluged» with the NTIIP members’ requests to join it.
«I’ll make sure we will find such a party (willing to accept us). We will make it big. Then we will get the party’s name changed. All will be done according to the letter of law,» Puteikis told. He added: «Bringing the Justice Ministry to court now is not an option, as litigation would be lengthy and we would miss the registration deadline.»
Thirty eight political parties in Lithuania
As of today, there are 38 political parties in Lithuania. One of them is in the process of liquidation and 13 parties risk annulment of their registry because of the failure to timely submit lists of the party members.
Besides the aim to increase the level of non-taxable income in the country, the new party also seeks to tackle emigration and revamp the system of local governance.
NTIIP aims at emigration harnessing
«Thousands of folks in Lithuania cannot afford basic things. Seeing all the affluent society on TV, they are under huge stress, their self-esteem suffers, and so they pack up and leave for a better life abroad. Our mission is to stop emigration and get our people back to our emptying towns and settlements,» Puteikis says.
Asked whether the NTIIP is a single election project, which is what many analysts believe, Puteikis denied it, saying that the party aims to fix Lithuanian taxes long-term.
«We want to educate our population about taxes and we also want to put to shame all our politicians who lack empathy for the people in need,» the MP underlined.
Referring to institutions of local self-governance in Lithuania, he called many of them «too big» and «unable» to address the needs of the population.
«We need smaller bodies of governance locally. In terms of taxation and governance, we look like Belarus and Russia. The Lithuanian model of governance is neither European nor similar to that in Belarus or Russia,» he insisted.
Traditional parties stand best chances
Although many Lithuanian political observers size up Puteikis as a leader capable of getting the flock behind him, some questioned the party’s prospects and its true intentions.
«Lithuanian party formation laws do not play in favour of new political formations. As the bulk of financial subsidies come from the state coffers, parties rely on the money. A new party will not get it,» Linas Kojala, a political analyst, told BNN.
«To boost a new party’s prospects, there must be an impetus from the public, which we saw in the case of Drąsos Kelias Party in 2012. I don’t see similar propulsion with the Non-Taxable Income Increase Party,»he emphasized.
Kojala believes that, in the coming parliamentary election, the mainstream political parties will be vying for the seats in Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament).
«The spectrum of ideas they represent does satisfy all the political opinions in the society,» the analyst underlined.
Will Kaunas mayor run in the election?
However, if the popular mayor of the city of Kaunas, Visvaldas Matijošaitis, decides to establish a party for the election, it might be a different story, believes Kojala.
«He definitely has the capacity to take it off, but he has not hinted so fa whether he wants to participate in the election. Matijošaitis‘ party would stand way better chances in the elections than Puteikis‘ NTIPP. Just because the Kaunas mayor has the necessary resources- as a millionaire businessman and mayor of Kaunas,» Kojala said.