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Lithuania’s ruling LFGU leader threatens to hand power to opposition Conservatives

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Leader Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), Ramūnas Karbauskis

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

The seemingly always calm leader of Lithuania’s ruling Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), Ramūnas Karbauskis, lost his cool twice within a couple of days, threatening to pull out from the ruling coalition, in which LFGU has a clear majority, and step down as the LFGU leader if the election results turn out to be unsatisfactory.

«I don’t think that making a bugaboo from the Conservatives works any longer.  It certainly shows nervousness of the party chairman, and it does not bode well for the Farmers,» Vytautas Dumbliauskas, associate professor at Mykolas Romeris University, summed it up for Baltic News Network (BNN).

No point to be in game?

Are the vociferous statements a clear sign of powerful Karbauskis’ uneasiness ahead of the presidential race this Sunday and the looming European Parliament election in late May? Neither the LFGU presidential candidate, PM Saulius Skvernelis, nor party itself does well in the polls.  Is trouble ahead?

«If the conservatives win the presidential election – either Šimonytė or Nausėda (we believe both of them are the conservatives’ candidates) wins it, and we as a party fail to win the European Parliament elections, I may suggest that the LFGU withdraw from the ruling coalition,» the LFGU leader said last week. In his conviction, both Šimonytė and Nausėda will enhance their influence on political processes in the country and rev up pressure on the ruling LFGU.

«What’s the point remaining and playing that game then? Why go against the will of the people, if it is expressed in the elections, for a year and a half? Why continue working under the conditions we have been working now, where there is complete confrontation, our work is hindered and reforms are blocked, for another year and a half?» Karbauskis sounded exasperated.

Attempts to overthrow the government?

Skvernelis hinted previously too that a new majority might emerge in the Seimas, depending on the results of the elections. Weighing in on the prime minister’s words, Karbauskis insisted the Conservatives had been trying hard to persuade lawmakers from different aisles of the legislative chamber «to overthrow the government».

«Well, Karbauskis is still a new player in politics, but after having spent two thirds of the parliamentary term, he shouldn’t be complaining that the Conservatives want them out of power. It is part of the game called politics,» a parliamentarian told BNN.

High election stakes for LFGU

This week, Karbauskis stepped further in frightening all with the consequences of a LFGU loss in the elections and promised to have his leadership challenged if LFGU suffers defeat in the elections.

«They all are constantly repeating that it is us who are bluffing. But I want to say this: they are bluffers in fact. It is them who bluff every day, in fact they do so incessantly. The president is bluffing and so do both leaders of the presidential race…If Skvernelis does not make it to the second round (of the presidential election) and if we lose the EP elections, we will certainly withdraw from the ruling coalition. We do not continue working without the support from the nation,» the LFGU leader said on Tuesday.

Karbauskis promised to allow the LFGU Council to evaluate his performance as the party chairman should the Farmers and Greens come empty-handed in both high-stake elections. «Coming second in both elections satisfies us only in the first round of the presidential election, which would guarantee Skvernelis a spot in the second round of the race. In any other case, being second means defeat for us,» Karbauskis emphasised.

Viktoras Pranckietis, the speaker of the Seimas, however frowned at the idea of the LFGU leader on quitting the government if party loses the elections.  «I think we have commitments for a longer period of time, that is, for the entire (parliamentary) term. A presidential election and a parliamentary election are two different things,» he told Žinių Radijas on Wednesday morning.

The LFGU and its minor ruling coalition partner, the Lithuanian Social Democratic Labour Party (LSDLP), have a cooperation agreement with the Order and Justice political group in the Seimas. This gives them 69 seats in the 141-strong parliament. The bloc’s initiatives in the Seimas are also often backed by the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania–Christian Families Alliance (EAPL-CFA), which means they can muster a total of 77 votes.

Nausėda ir lesser of two evils?

Asked what he makes of the threats by Karbauskis, Dumbliauskas, a political analyst, pointed out to LFGU’s «increasing fear» of losing the heated political contests.

«Namely fear drives Karbauskis to mobilize LFGU electorate. Unlike Conservatives’ electorate, LFGU’s electorate lacks discipline and is prone to swinging moods. Threatening all with the Conservatives is pretty funny to me – it is a relic of the past, but Karbauskis thinks the bugaboo can be successfully revived. I doubt it,» Dumbliauskas told BNN.

Inquired which of the leading presidential candidates would suit LFGU interests better, he pondered that Nausėda is lesser of two evils.

«Šimonytė would be incompatible with the LFGU agenda ideologically. Especially that the Farmers would see the Conservative leaders’ decisions in whatever she does,» Dumbliauskas emphasised.

 Karbauskis asks one of candidates to quit election race

Karbauskis admitted on Wednesday he had asked one of the candidates to withdraw from the presidential race in favour of Skvernelis, his party’s candidate.

However, the Central Electoral Commission says it is «impossible” at this stage of the election campaign.  «I’ve spoken to a candidate and (asked him) to withdraw. I don’t know whether or not he’ll do so,» he told reporters after voting early in Kaunas, but did not name the candidate.

Laura Matijošaitytė, head of the Central Electoral Commission, says candidates cannot withdraw from an election at a stage where the final list has been announced and ballots have been printed.

Nine candidates are running for president: European Commissioner Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, philosopher Arvydas Juozaitis, MEP Valentinas Mazuronis, economist Gitanas Nausėda, MP Mindaugas Puidokas, MP Naglis Puteikis, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, MP Ingrida Šimonytė and MEP Valdemar Tomaševski.

If none of candidates wins at least 50 per cent of the vote this Sunday, the two leading candidates will face each other in a runoff on May 26. Some 1.85 per cent of Lithuanians, or 44.700 people, cast ballots in first 2 days of early voting.


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