Political parties on a bragging spree ahead of New Year, which will sort out true winners and losers
Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN
As Lithuanian political parties are set to ring in the New Year, the buzz is not so much about the changeover as it is about the nearing political campaigning for Seimas election in late 2016.
Although the parties are already measuring up against one another and flexing up muscles, boasting of the year’s highs and putting a gloss on the lows, the true winners and losers will crop up only in a year.
Ongoing renovation is TT’s success
«I really hope that the population will acknowledge our party’s efforts done to push forward the renovation of the country’s apartment blocks. The process has been literally in a stalemate for four or five years, and thanks to the ministers delegated by our party, it has considerably moved ahead this year,» Remigijus Žemaitaitis, a parliamentarian of the ruling Order and Justice Party (TT), told BNN.
He chalks off the success to former TT deputy chairman and minister-turned-MEP Valentinas Mazuronisand his successor, Kęstutis Trečiokas.
That the former has left the party this year amid a set of rows with the party leader and MEP Rolandas Paksas he considers«a temporarynuisance to some», but claims TT has reeled off well from the shake-up.
«Some political observers tend us to constantly write off, but we, every time, tend to come back even stronger. That tells a lot about the party’s depth,» the MP insisted.
Among the other party’s gains in 2015 he sees addition of three new Seimas legislators to the party ranks.
«Both Stasys Brundza, Valdas Vasiliauskas and Povilas Gylys are seasoned politicians, who, unlike some of the analysts, certainly believe the party has a future,» Žemaitaitis claimed.
Will Roland Paksas vote fiasco haunt TT?
Speaking of the party’s biggest losses this year, he singled out the ruling coalition’s failure to bring Paksas, the party leader, back to the domestic political stage.
In 2004, the Lithuanian Parliament, or Seimas, ousted Paksas less than 14 months after he took the President’s office, voting on three counts that he violated his oath and the Lithuanian Constitution through his dealings with a Lithuanian-Russian businessman suspected of links to Russian organized crime.
In 2011, Paksas heard a favourable verdict from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which said that the legislative measure against him- a life-long ban from any oath-requiring office- is too excessive and that he needs to be given a right to seek such office again.
The Lithuanian Seimas, however, has failed this winter to pave way for his comeback through adoption of necessary Constitutional amendments.
«It is definitely our legislature’s- and our party’s- failure,» says Žemaitaitis. «Paksas will be barred from the domestic political stage until Loreta Graužinienė (Seimas’ chairwoman and one of the stalwarts of the Labour Party) and Valentinas Mazuronis (Labour Party chairman) are around,» the legislator is convinced.
Another setback, he says, is the resignation of Interior minister Dailius Barakauskas, who was forced to step down amid a corruption scandal.
Too a big LNG terminal and shady waste management
That Lithuania has a LNG terminal which maintenance costs are very high and that Lithuania fails to find buyers for nearly half of the gas stored in the facility is also TT’s relative defeat, believes Žemaitaitis.
«It means we failed to convince all the colleagues on the Seimas floor and the society that we do not need such a big terminal. Now we therefore see the rising prices of gas and eventually the costs of heat and electricity,» the legislator admitted.
Asked about personal wins in the politics this year, Žemaitaitis says he’s proud of having initiated amendments to the Tourism Law, which, he says, have helped revoke licenses of some shady tourism agencies in the country.
«I also chalk off to my achievement the decision to exempt some new investors in Kaunas Free Economic Zone from the so-called public service obligation, i.e. a tangible surcharge for the electricity service,» the MP noted.
A loss, he says, also could be the inability to get amendments to the Law on Waste passed.
«Unfortunately, the lobbyists and those who, on the municipal level, manage, often non-transparently, to shun landfill taxes have won. As a result, waste recycling continues to stall and continues being a fortune to those who manage to take advantage of the legislative loopholes. In a word, Lithuania failed to step up waste management in 2015,» Žemaitaitis pointed out to BNN. He added:«I’ve been appointed to head Seimas Delegation in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. It is a big acknowledgment to me.»
Inquired how Order and Justice Party can possibly do in Seimas election next year, he replied «many in the ranks» would be glad if the party could grab eight or ten seats.
«Now we have 13 members in our fraction. I don’t think we can do much beter than that. Let’s be realistic,» Žemaitaitis told.
He says he will run in the election if the party wishes.
Key energy projects stand out
For Gediminas Kirkilas, one of the big shots of Lithuania’s Social Democratic Party, the party’s biggest gains in 2015 were about the successful completion of major power projects.
«The grid interconnectors with Sweden and Poland and signing the deal on laying a gas pipeline to Poland are defining-moments for Lithuania’s energy sector,» the politician told BNN.
That the Social Democrats end the year enjoying record-high support in the polls is also a joyful fact for the party, says Kirkilas.
«It means the party’s programme has been a success. People value the economic stability and are hopeful of the future. People are still perhaps mindful of the unpopular former Conservatives-led coalition and their decisions,» the SD senior member and vice-chairman of the Seimas said.
He says if the party manages to win 40 or more seats in 2016 Seimas election, it will definitely be a success.
Replying to the question on the Social Democrats’ failures this year, he mentioned the stalling adoption of a new social model.
«Now it is put off till the spring session, but I wish we had passed it by now. With the piece of legislation still waiting endorsement, there’s a possibility that some voters can turn away from us in the run,» Kirkilas shared the concern.
Asked about the New Year’s resolutions, the seasoned politician answered he did not have any, but confessed he wants to put out a new book in 2016.
«About the politics, sure,» he told.
Conservatives snub polls, expect to come victorious in 2016
Andrius Kubilius, former chairman of the Homeland Union and Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD), known as Lithuania’s Conservatives, praised the party for the work that led to the implementation of the afore-mentioned energy projects.
To the remark that the Social Democrats see themselves behind them, Kubilius sneered at the key political rivals, saying that Social Democrats boast of hitching a ride on the train that was put on the tracks by Conservatives.
«We cannot forbid themto have some joy from the ride,» former TS-LKD chief quipped.
He also sees the party behind the significant bolstering of Lithuania’s defence capabilities this year.
«We have always kept repeating that we should ramp up our defence. However, not always others listened to us. That Lithuania reinstated conscription this year is alsosomething that we have started,» Kubilius noted.
The results in the municipal council elections, held in March, were not bad, he says, but, notably, the elections have spurred some change in the party’s leadership, which is «a very good thing», says Kubilius.
«I really believe we can do well in Seimas election next year, although the polls may not be in our favour now. But they are something that we do not pay attention a lot to. Remember, in the European Parliament election, Social Democrats were heavily favoured, but we came on top,» the Conservative MP reminded. «I am pretty sure we may see the same outcome in 2016.»
A peaceful year matters for Labourists
Kęstutis Daukšys, deputy chairman of Lithuania’s Labour Party, believes namely the Labourists are behind the raise of minimum wage, pensions and hike in teachers’ pay.
«That has always been in our programme. Frankly, I cannot come up with anything what you call «Labour Party’s loss», the politician told BNN.«I hope 2016 will be a good year for our party. The most important thing is to have a peaceful new year.»
Raimondas Imbrasas, chief secretary of Lithuania’s Liberal Movement (LLS), calls the party’s gains in 2015 «big.»
«The party has significantly increased the number of mandates in the municipal councils and Liberal Movement has effectively become a second party in the country, right behind the Social Democrats. That’s big,» Imbrasas told BNN.
He says the party’s ranks grew by around one thousand new members in 2015.
«If we can win over 30 seats in Seimas after the election next year, it will certainly be a success for Liberal Movement,» LLS chief secretary told.