The Seimas NSGK concluded its parliamentary investigation on threats to national security and democracy. Much has been said and done, but a significant deal was left undisclosed. As such, the investigation must be continued.
The core message of the investigation can be held as being observations about various challenges arising to the political system, about what highlighted the political system’s vulnerabilities. Correct, any political system is “attacked” – from within and without. All the time. And it will never be otherwise. But these are overly complicated truths to discuss here.
Somehow, I would like to aid those, who enjoy the political system category – in essence a complex philosophical abstract. And sometimes a convenient key to not only mull the mysteries of politics, but also solve them. Thus, let us begin. The political system is not a state, which can successfully endure changes of political systems. The concept of democracy is closer to political systems, it expands opportunities to evaluate the quality of politics. And in our case it is a sure-fire way to talk about the political system – as a collection of institutions typical for a parliamentary democracy. All the elements of this collection are mandatory and someone has both access and duty to constantly care for the efficiency of their operation and interactions.
Where, dare I say, did we shoot ourselves in the foot instead of the bullseye and thus have to continue the investigation? The problem, I have no doubt, is worthy of becoming the fundamental question in the sequels of the concluded investigation. Thus the answer: we missed because of false preconceptions that interest groups are external enemies of the political system. No such thing, quite the contrary, interest groups are components of all democratic political systems, which perform no less important functions than, for example, political parties. Lacking this, the political system will not work adequately or otherwise – expect threats to security and democracy.
Why did this happen? Because all the time we successfully shove interest groups out of the political system and thus unconsciously create greatly antagonistic relations. In this regard, the investigation has certainly clearly highlighted the weaknesses of the political system. The weak, as you know, are attacked by all sorts of pests and this is where democracy will certainly be under threat. Thus because democracy cannot be solely representative, it must also be functional, that is to say encompassing the most diverse interests. We simply cannot do here without interest groups and if we try, we will only extend the chronic diseases of the system.
Where should interest groups go and how should they act in such a situation? Of course, they will seek ways to remain in the political system and unfortunately in Lithuania for economic groups this also means remaining in the market. Such groups certainly never were and never will be little angels. They have their interests and respective logic. Those interests are not based on common good and are not without reason called narrow sector interests. But this does not mean that such groups must be on the other side of the political system. Quite the contrary, they must be fully integrated.
And that’s an explanation for you, why in Lithuania illegal lobbyism is thriving, why public institutions, funds and such have become alternative financing channels for certain political parties. I will note that in these regards, the investigation has achieved much. But the most important moments are left undisclosed and this is yet another reason, why the investigation must continue.
It was said that in Lithuania, illegal lobbyism is thriving and interest groups would appear to be dealing with just that. Correct and it will not be otherwise. The question is simple – why does it thrive and to whom do business interest groups go to “make deals”, who accepts them? We will not get into potential anecdotal responses. This is more important. Specifically the correct legal regulation of such problems has long been known to all, even in Lithuania, which lacks lobbying tradition. We need only a differentiating classifier for lobbyists, clear obligation for associations and other similar subjects to specify their lobbying and account for it, also we must solve the obvious lobby regulation problems at the municipal level and the ice would shift immediately. Unfortunately up to now, when it came to making decisive decisions, something would happen and the expected legislative decisions would grind to a halt.
The lack of suitable regulation on lobbying puts interest groups that deal in it in a difficult situation. It is likely that a number of them struggle to come to an understanding of what activities are suitable in a political system that has faced a number of shocks over all these years. No doubt, then old traditions and good old habits help get one’s bearings – connections, bribes and acquaintances. The results is what we have today – something in between chaotic pluralism, corporate corruption and mutated clientelism. This says neither a great deal, nor very little – the interaction of politics and business interests has been trapped in unsavoury shadows. No doubt, lobbying regulation under such conditions is no simple task, but it must finally be done. Or otherwise we will once more face reports on business interests penetrating politics in time. They are penetrating nowhere; they are seeking their place in a disordered system. And that is yet another reason to continue the investigation.
The aforementioned problems and their accompanying threats are no doubt linked to the current regulation of political party campaign and party financing. Those saying that it is neither good, nor bad are correct, various models have been tried around the world. We should perhaps only note what experts and experienced international organisations have spoken on this question. Specifically how political party financing regulation and control should not be presented with anti-corruption goals and tasks under any circumstances. Since in such cases, other values are forgotten and suffer despite their importance to democracy. I am convinced that the concluded investigation also highlighted well that certain vital values for the political system, parliamentary and corporate culture have long been forgotten. This is yet another reason for a continuation.
Of course the investigation may not be continued. Only in such a case we will need someone’s explanation that parliamentary investigations are no small matter and that they are only possible under exceptional, massively important to the public cases. And that instead of bombs, as was correctly noted, we would not be left with only bubbles.