100 days of government – no major fallout yet, but SocDems already obstructive

Algirdas Butkevičius, Saulius Skvernelis
DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

The government can no longer hide from criticism – more than a hundred days have passed since the ministerial cabinet swore in. During this period the government programme was prepared, as well as its action plan with almost 800 tasks. However experts note that the cabinet’s good image was mostly shaped by the ineffective work of Seimas, rather than the quality performance of the cabinet, TV3.lt reported.

The majority coalition features 56 “Farmers” and 19 Social Democrats. The junior coalition partners have delegated three ministers of fourteen. The cabinet is noted for the prevalence of non-partisan ministers.

Image bolstered by a poor start in Seimas

Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science (VU TSPMI) professor Tomas Janeliūnas says that for now the cabinet has managed to uphold a positive image, but there have yet to be any true results from its work. He points out that the cabinet appears good in the background of the Seimas’ poor start, with the media’s attention being centred on Seimas. The cabinet has had time to prepare, now the time has come to show results.

The expert says that the cabinet has taken firm steps in reforming the management of state owned enterprise, but the first one hundred days cannot be expected to really feature any significant changes, particularly regarding education, healthcare or financial reform. The changes in Lietuvos Geležinkeliai management are a positive step though, he notes.

Coalition partners, not the opposition hampering work

Janeliūnas also admits there is really no justification for criticism toward the Prime Minister so far, but the fundamental problem of coming to terms over decisions with their Social Democrat coalition partners remains. PM Saulius Skvernelis himself has said that the cabinet is practically already working as one of a minority government. Regarding this statement T. Janeliūnas points out that this inability of the coalition to agree with one another is what hampers the cabinet’s performance.

The Social Democrats still have a number of unresolved internal issues and are awaiting the election of their new chairman, while on the other hand they are seemingly being removed from their traditional shelters such as Lietuvos Geležinkeliai and the forestries and this leads to them acting against reforms in order to maintain if not political, then at least administrative influence, the expert explains.

More issues were expected in the cabinet

Communications expert Arijus Katauskas says that he finds the Prime Minister to be maintaining a very high profile, with the cabinet appearing to be his team, rather than being a united and strong ministerial cabinet.

He notes that the cabinet could have been expected to have far more issues. Some of the ministers have also maintained a high profile in their work and statements, A. Katauskas highlights the Minister of Finance as well as the Minister of Culture, alongside the Prime Minister himself, but at the same time there are a number of ministers who have been relatively invisible, which leads to a perception of the cabinet as Skvernelis and his team, rather than a ministerial cabinet.

While Katauskas praises the cabinet’s actions in stymieing nomenclature, he points out that it has not been successful at communicating about these achievements, silently moving toward various important elements mentioned in the President’s annual addresses.

While the cabinet has managed to avoid any scandal so far, it does not appear to have done much and in this regard the expert points out that it will need to work hard on improving its communications.

S. Skvernelis – more human than A. Butkevičius was

A. Katauskas also highlights that PM Skvernelis is well received and is gradually adjusting to his new role, something the expert observed through the PM’s rhetoric. The expert praises Skvernelis’ stance on forestry reform and while he admits the politician has made mistakes, he also praises the Prime Minister’s capacity to speak not as a Prime Minister or a politician, but as a human being, something that appears to appeal to the public.

Compared to A. Butkevičius’ first months, S. Skvernelis’ performance is stronger according to the communications expert, who points out that A. Butkevičius very quickly ended up making communications mistakes in his role as PM, while S. Skvernelis has shown himself to be a whole head taller than the former PM in this regard, not being afraid to improvise and make mistakes, while retaining an image of humanity.

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