Clear signs of parliamentary crisis, but snap elections are unlikely

Opposition leaders and R. Karbauskis at the We Accuse! protest
DELFI / Lukas Bartkus

After the Seimas vote to impeach Mindaugas Bastys floundered due to a lack of votes despite the Constitutional Court ruling that the now former MP broke the Constitution and his oath, the majority, despite accusing the Conservatives regarding the vote results, experienced both internal and external pressure. The opposition has demanded snap elections and the public, fed up with constant bickering and double standards, as well as missing effective work and accountability, gathered in protest at the Seimas, writes.

This pressure appears to have unbalanced the “Farmers‘” top echelons. Ramūnas Karbauskis promised to initiate impeachment on first the entire Conservative party, later 29 of its members and finally limited himself to appealing to the Seimas Commission of Ethics and Procedures.

Viktoras Pranckietis chanted “shame” together with the protesters so earnestly that both R. Karbauskis and Saulius Skvernelis proposed he leave his office. With emotions settling, R. Karbauskis said that the Seimas speaker retains confidence and is not ashamed of the “Farmers”, while V. Pranckietis announced that no-one proposed for him to resign.

The Seimas speaker is ashamed, he is ashamed over the Seimas, its decisions. Meanwhile R. Karbauskis said, “If V. Pranckietis is ashamed, let him resign, we will elect someone new.”

The Seimas’ decision left the crowd of thousands, who gathered near the Seimas last week, ashamed as well. The people said they were frustrated by the constant bickering in parliament, arrogance and imitation of work, but the favourable ruling for M. Bastys, who broke his oath, was the last straw.

In recent days the Seimas has become embroiled in bickering. The conflict between the groups is deepening and it no longer looks like healthy political competition, but personal and partisan hatred instead. According to the president, the parliament is turning into a “bickering ground.”

The opposition is convinced – this Seimas is no longer capable of working and snap elections must be called. It has been proposed to organise them on June 3 this year. 48 MPs have already signed under the proposal, which will be discussed this week. Signatories include most opposition parties, however three members of the “Farmer” group – Vytautas Bakas, Justas Džiugelis and Povilas Urbšys are also in the list.

“There’s a petty chieftain with his understanding and view of his party members, his attitude toward others because it is he, who has power, he is in a position of strength and that’s all. Might makes rights. I have used this statement elsewhere: “I’m the boss, you’re the fool.” Such is the position where the man stands, today he’s the boss and thus thinks that the rest are all fools,” Seimas Liberal Movement group prefect Eugenijus Gentvilas says.

Though the Liberal MP speaks of R. Karbauskis, it would appear this applies to all the “Farmer” leaders.

“It is normal, such is the basis of democracy that the minority listens to the majority. And sometimes they even talk of bulldozers, well I have a fun phrase – in order to level out roads, you sometimes need a bulldozer, so in this case… <…> Hold on, hold on, the minority listens to the majority. Yes, that is the means of decision making, what do you doubt it?” the Seimas speaker said in a 15min video conference.

The Seimas speaker would appear to not have any doubt. Not too far from him stands the prime minister, for whom the idea of snap elections is not a good prospect. The majority does not need it and the minority can go resign if it’s discontent. He is backed by the “Farmer” party’s leader.

“Those members of Seimas, who believe that they can no longer work in this Seimas can choose another way, same as the young Conservative leader Tadas Langaitis did. It was too difficult for him, perhaps uninteresting and then those 47-48 MPs would lay down their MP mandates, the question would automatically arise, whether the Seimas can continue working and the question of snap elections could be considered,” the prime minister assured.

The prime minister is echoed by R. Karbauskis, “I believe that this initiative is simply based on the opposition’s exhaustion, with it focusing on constantly creating antagonisms, divisions and such, rather than constructive cooperation with the government in seeking the best decisions.”

Seimas Homeland Union group prefect Gabrielius Landsbergis says that working with the current majority is akin to head-butting a concrete wall, however nevertheless after this week’s chaos he proposed the “Farmers” a solution” – agree on joint work, but with four conditions: initiate no confidence procedures against Central Electoral Commission (VRK) chair Laura Matjošaitytė, organise impeachment procedures on Artūras Skardžius, abolish secret voting regarding impeachments and consider snap elections.

“It is yet another exam for the majority. Will they hear the will of the people or will they remain dug in at Pilėnai [Medieval hill fort known for its stoic defence against the Teutonic Order and subsequent mass suicide when it was realised the fortifications could hold no longer], where they will self-immolate in the end?” G. Landsbergis mused.

According to analysts, the Seimas’ problems began last autumn when the formal coalition collapsed. Only unofficial agreements with the rebel Social Democrats remain and the “Farmers” are forced to constantly seek unofficial support, safeguard controversial politicians. As such there are numerous signs of parliamentary crisis.

“Just that the opposition wants such elections, that the public, after a long pause, is organising protests at the Seimas and is trying to demand more accountability, this truly shows that not everything is going well in Seimas and that a certain line has been crossed, where very serious actions must be taken,” Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science (VU TSPMI) professor Tomas Janeliūnas states.

VU TSPMI docent Liutauras Gudžinskas says that the “Farmers” will increasingly struggle to acquire opposition support.

“The current parliamentary majority is truly unstable and it is dependent on various marginal or controversial figures. Thus if we are to talk of the implementation of some sort of reforms, which are perhaps difficult, for which you need to unit and draw certain opposition support, it would unfortunately appear like the conditions will become increasingly difficult.

In order for snap elections to be held, 85 MPs must vote in favour. It is doubted whether this can be achieved.

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