Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN
Nearly a week after the second round of Lithuania‘s general election, the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LVŽS), the holder of 54 mandates in the141-member Lithuanian Parliament, has not gotten a step closer to agreeing with other political parties on a new Cabinet.
First talks were futile
«Indeed, there has been no progress with the bid. It seems that the limits of possible partners‘ flexibility are being still checked. The initial shots from all the sides are infused with many emotions, perhaps just the Social Democrats (LSDP) are behaving more business-like, although their chances are slim. The emotionality stems from the LVŽS‘ and the Conservatives‘ big pretensions. We definitely will need to wait some time more to see any tangible framework of a new government,» Tomas Janeliūnas, associate professor at the Institute of International Relations and Political Sciences (TSPM) at Vilnius University, told BNN.
This week, the Peasants and Greens have hold first talks with the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD), or Conservatives, and Social Democrats (LSDP), but left the negotiation table empty-handed.
TS-LKD was the runner-up in the election with 31 Seimas mandates in its hands and LSDP was third with 17 parliamentary seats.
LVŽS has not repudiated its endeavour yet to form a wide ruling coalition encompassing both the Conservatives and the Social Democrats, although the former has bristled against it from the outset, insisting that they do not see themselves together with LSDP members in the same government. TS-LKD is determined to engage the Liberals in new coalition formations talks –the Liberal Movement, unexpectedly to many, was fourth in the vote tally with 14 mandates. However, Liberals‘ leader Remigijus Šimašius, who is mayor of Vilnius, got visibly irked by the Conservatives‘ insistent demand to include the Liberals in the new government and reiterated that the Liberals, whose electoral prospects have been seriously scathed by corruption and influence peddling allegations against the charges-battling former party chairman Eligijus Masiulis, would rather stay in opposition.
Winner may do without major parties?
Against the backdrop, LVŽS chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis‘ statement that the Peasants can «easily» form a new government without the Conservatives and the Social Democrats is worth listening, although help of some of the parties on the fringes of the political spectrum would be needed for that.
The Party of Order and Justice and Lithuania‘s Electoral Action of Poles have pocketed eight mandates each; meanwhile, the Labour Party, which failed to overcome the five percent support hurdle in multi-mandate constituency, obtained two seats and there are seven new MPs belonging to little-heard new or ground-losing parties, and some of them are independents.
Janeliūnas, of TSPM, however, doubts whether the Peasants and Greens will resort to aid from the weak and controversial parties and independents.
«There‘re still many emotions, with no party willing to make concessions. But the longer formation of a new coalition drags on, the higher probability that the negotiators will want to rid of some of their demands is,» believes Janeliūnas.
Although some analysts started speculating that reticence for concessions may lead to stalemate and, possibly, formation of a minority government by LVŽS, the TSPM lecturer dismisses the possibility.
«The President (Dalia Grybauskaitė-L.J) wouldn‘t be happy to see a minority government. She has long talked about a Coalition including several major parties,» Janeliūnas noted. «Besides, the Peasants and Greens have said on several occasions they could be in the same boat neither with the Party of Order and Justice nor the Labour Party.»
The President will be closely monitoring the situation, believes Janeliūnas, and will get involved when all the possibilities to hammer out an agreement on new coalition are exhausted.
The Lithuanian Constitution envisions that with parties unable to form new government within two months after parliamentary election, a new election is announced.
Conservatives leader sounds irked
On late Tuesday afternoon, after one-at-a-time talks with the Conservatives and the Social Democrats were over, Povilas Urbšys, the chief LVŽS negotiator, hinted that the latter has been more «constructive and flexible» than the former.
Commenting the meeting with the LVŽS negotiators, Gabrielius Landsbergis, chairman of the Homeland Union- Lithuanian Christian Democrats, sounded quite exasperated.
«Karbauskis (the LVŽS leader) says he and his party members do not know (anything substantial) about our programme. I‘d say that we know each other‘s programmes very well by now. Our programme is very big and wide. They just cannot say that they know nothing about it. If they started to speak that they do not like one thing or another (in it), it would be a sign of the start of negotiations. However, now, instead I see an attempt to delay the decision or simply discard it,» Landsbergis‘ Facebook post reads.
The Conservatives, he claims, wants to start talking with the Peasants about concrete ideas in reconciling both parties‘ programmes, but Karbauskis, in his words, puts brakes on the kind of talks right away.
«Wait, wait, if we start talking about that, then it is the commencement of negotiations, but we want only consultations for now,» he says. «In other words, they want us (Conservatives) to become a loyal witness for all they do and only then negotiations will follow… Their stance is sort of this: «Abide by our rules and then we will see…How one having assumed such a position can expect that there will be anyone willing to join such coalition?» Landsbergis wondered in his post.
Landsbergis will not budge
The Conservatives leader went on guessing what the Peasants foreman pursues with such rhetoric.
«Maybe it is part of their PR and the further purposeful striving to possibly discredit traditional political parties? Or maybe it just purports that they are short in insightfulness? In any case, the behaviour is unprecedented and cannot be accepted by any self-respecting party,» resumed the TS-LKD chairman.
Heeding the notion that Conservatives are too stuck up and reluctant to assume responsibility for the governance of state, Landsbergis defended the stringent party‘s stance in consultations (talks?) with the Peasants, claiming that giving in to Karbauskis, who, in his words, sounds like a person from «another planet», would be tantamount to «a spit» onto the TS-LKD supporters and voters who believe in the Landsbergis junior-initiated changes and renewal.
Landsbergis seems to be cozying up with an idea of being in opposition.
«The Peasants‘ views are often very opaque and hardly reconcilable even within the party due to the variety of their members who got elected to Seimas…If there does not appear more clarity, we are ready to support all necessary and wise decisions. However, from the stands of parliamentary opposition,» he emphasised.
Meanwhile, the Peasants‘ chief negotiator, Urbšys, tends to down play the rebukes and claims that, altogether, there is a single major disagreement – over the Liberals‘ inclusion in the new government.
«As the pre-trial investigation against the Liberals (Masiulis) is not over yet- and I would not be surprised to see new investigations against the party members started after the election, therefore we may see new people being incriminated with crimes – we are really concerned about it,» Urbšys said.
The LVŽS has not yet pronounced clearly what political direction is dearer to them in terms of values.
«If we were to speak of social justice, then we are nearer to the Social Democratic ideology. And we are speaking about the traditional values, which we link with the preservation of traditional family and language, then we are on the right,» Urbšys echoed the LVŽS leader‘s words.
Is Conservatives leader cocky?
Some analysts, like Kęstutis Girnius, tend, however, to support the Peasants in their dealings with the Conservatives, arguing that Landsbergis junior is just too arrogant and haughty.
«The arrogance and aggressive stance that Gabrielius Landsbergis assumed in talks has just enhanced his negative image. I don‘t understand why the Conservatives have created such cult of personality in his person, when they have many respectable politicians in their ranks, like deputy party chairwoman Irena Degutienė or Ingrida Šimonytė, former Finance minister…For some reason, it was forgotten that Gabrielius (Landsbergis) is associated with his grandfather Vytautas Landsbergis (who is called the patriarch of Lithuania‘s modern politics), who albeit the smith of Lithuanian independence, yet remains one of the most unpopular Lithuanian politicians,» Girnius emphasised.