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Defiant Lithuanian Parliament Speaker snubs party’s decision on his ouster

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Speaker of the Lithuanian legislature Seimas, Viktoras Pranckietis

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

The summer’s record heatwave has withdrawn, but the Lithuanian legislature, Seimas, is sizzling – the chamber’s speaker, Viktoras Pranckietis, remains defiant, snubbing the ruling Farmers and Greens (LFGU) Council’s nearly unanimous decision to oust him from the post, following the signing of the LFGU-led new coalition agreement in early July.

New coalition agreement

The expanded coalition agreement signed by the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, the Social Democratic Labor Party of Lithuania (SDLP), the Order and Justice party and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance and the country’s Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis includes the program of the future ruling majority and post division.

The agreement stipulates that Parliament speaker’s post goes for the SDLP, but Pranckietis, delegated to the position by the Farmers and Greens, argues that he has the Seimas’ confidence, thence he can defy the coalition agreement and the party’s decision.

Moreover, Pranckietis says Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the LFGU, «revenges» him for his independence and non-partisanship as the Parliament speaker. The LFGU leader has already criticised Pranckietis on several occasions in the past.

MP: Speaker put himself above all

For now, it seems that the majority of LFGU MPs have faithfully herded behind Karbauskis.  «This is preposterous: by putting himself above the party’s interests and the decision, Pranckietis shows downright ignorance and stupidity, expecting a miracle in the parliament. But it just won’t happen – he will be removed either in the coming days or by the start of autumn session due on September 10,» Dainius Kepenis, one of the parliamentary LFGU fraction’s stalwarts, told BNN.

According to the parliamentarian, Pranckietis has «forgotten» what party brought him to the Seimas.

«In fact, it was the LFGU leader himself (Karbauskis) who personally spearheaded the appointment of Pranckietis. Pranckietis clearly cannot appreciate what has been done for him. He just do not understand how politics work,» the MP added.

Unexpected support from PM

It seems that now there is a majority to vote Pranckietis out of the office in the Seimas, but with the tensions lingering, the situation can change – some LFGU MPs are thought to be unhappy with the party and its leaders and, according to some sources, might be mulling setting their own fraction.  Skvernelis, who has lately been profusely criticising the party and its chairman, is believed to be in it.

In fact, this week, with the Pranckietis story making headlines, Skvernelis poured gas on the fire by expressing his unwavering support for the Seimas speaker. «I won’t support the dismissal of the speaker of the Seimas. Most probably, I won’t take part in the vote at all,» he told reporters on Tuesday, July 16.

Clearly exasperated, Karbauskis, the ruling party leader, seems so far to downplay the issue of removing Pranckietis from office, saying it is not the number-one issue now.

«This is not the top issue now; the top issue is the government,» Karbauskis told reporters after a meeting of the ruling coalition council early this week. «Our colleagues do not insist on dealing with this issue until the issue of the government has been resolved,» he added.

Karbauskis said, however, that the necessary votes for launching the no-confidence procedure had already been collected in the Seimas. Such a motion needs at least 29 signatures to be put to a vote.

Opposition Conservatives call for early election

Yet the issue has to be resolved to ease the tensions. Citing what they call is a «parliamentary mess», the opposition Conservatives are vehemently exhorting to proceed with an early parliamentary election next spring. The proposal did not receive support from other parties however.

Asked what outcome Pranckietis can expect from the confidence voting in the Parliament, Vytautas Bruveris, a Lithuanian analyst and journalist of daily Lietuvos Rytas, told BNN that Pranckietis has nothing to lose after the vote in the party council, so he is gambling, expecting that not all the Seimas’ LFGU MPs will endorse his ouster.

«However, the LFGU council vote showed clearly that Karbauskis holds the reins of the party firmly. My guess is, regardless of the developments to come, Pranckietis will not survive vote of confidence, especially that many MPs from the Farmers and Greens fraction feel razzed by defiant Pranckietis and his audacious statements,» Bruveris reasoned. «The mess is clearly damaging to the party – the ratings will inevitably slip, for now at least,» he added.

Analyst: Speaker has no chance

According to the analyst, Skvernelis’ position on the thorny issue for the ruling party does help the stubborn Seimas speaker.

«It is evident that Pranckietis will, sooner or later, will be expelled from the party, or will leave it on his own. As far as Skvernelis is concerned, he is actively exploring his political possibilities ahead of the parliamentary elections next year. I doubt if it is in his best interests to set up his own political party now. I’d rather believe he will hang in as the LFGU PM until the eve of the Seimas election campaign – and he will do it showing himself as a very independent prime minister, one not afraid of criticising the party and its leader (Karbauskis) – and then he will take actions upon the-then political circumstances. If the LFGU faces good prospects in the new-term Seimas, he will likely stick with it, but if the party support will have waned by then, Skvernelis will be compelled to establish his own party, which ensures his stay in active politics,» Bruveris emphasised to BNN.

Speaker wants to challenge LFGU leader

Interestingly, Skirmantas Malinauskas, an advisor to the prime minister, said this week that Skernelis would «probably» run for the party’s chairman after joining the party. The move has already been backed by Speaker of the Seimas Viktoras Pranckietis, representing the LFGU.

Meanwhile Pranckietis announced Wednesday that he will leave LFGU and will challenge the party’s leader Ramunas Karbauskis in the same single-member constituency in general elections next year.

«I already had plan A now and that was my single-member constituency I was elected in. I could also stand for election in the single-member constituency Ramunas Karbauskis would dare to stand for election in. Not intentionally, but to show off before people and wrestle,» Pranckietis told the Žinių Radijas news radio on Wednesday.

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