Bruveris. The Conservatives go down the “Farmer” path?

Vytautas Bruveris @ T. Baura

The Conservatives are like the “Farmers” and the new Seimas is akin to the old, just symmetrically flipped from left to right. This comparison comes to mind when looking at the recently minted Seimas election results and trying to evaluate the new ruling coalition’s political structure Vytautas Bruveris writes in

That said, first we should thank the Christian Union’s leader, former social democrat, then conservative and now former member of Seimas R. Dagys.

As you might know, this devout catholic ended his lengthy vagabond career at the political pinnacle with a poor note – having promised that “the Christian Union arrives – liberalism departs,” he will be watching the Freedom Party and Liberal Movement feast in government, while himself being consigned to watching through the windows.

He will be even more saddened by how it was namely due to him that this is the case. After all, who else? Had he not heeded G. Nausėda and the Catholic hierarchs the latter convinced and after all supported the “Farmer” coalition in Seimas who sought to reject the president’s veto on lowering the Seimas election threshold from five to three per cent, already after the first round of elections, that single vote to reject the veto would no longer have been missing.

Had the veto been rejected, after the first round of elections, the Seimas would also feature the Electoral Action of Poles – Christian Families Union and Social Democrat Labour. Thus, the Conservatives might have won the most mandates, but power might have remained in the hands of the “Farmers.”

As such, following this mandatory individual thanks, let us turn our gaze to the current landscape and the horizons of the past.

After the “Farmers” pulled together a majority after the second round in 2016 that no other party had obtained for two decades, gathering 56 mandates on their own, it appeared that no other party could repeat it again. Especially this year.

And no party did. But the elections were won, as expected, by the Conservatives, with only a small margin of a few mandates behind the record, getting back at the “Farmers” for the loss four years ago. However, even despite this, in their own ruling coalition, they will be just as dominant a power as the “Farmers” were for the past four years, presiding over the Seimas majority and even the entire Seimas.

However, the “Farmers’” dominance, as we saw, did not turn into anything more tangible for them than constant scandals, bickering and other wastefulness. Overall, it is tough to recall a term in office more devoid of real work, reform or other steps and more filled with stinking up the air than this one. The only real and greatest achievement of this government is that it managed to hold itself together.

Will the Conservatives fare otherwise?

Well, the new coalition of the Conservatives and both types of liberals, we already see more potential sources of discord than were seen in the numerous ranks of the “Farmers” in 2016.

If the Conservatives do not yield the chair of Seimas speaker to the Liberal Movement and keep it, there will be a dual leadership of party leader G. Landsbergis in Seimas and I. Šimonytė in the cabinet. Something like R. Karbauskis and S. Skvernelis.

Of course, this doesn’t even risk the sort of catastrophe and breakdown as occurred in the 1996-2000 term, but tensions and possibilities for turbulence are guaranteed.

Tensions and turbulence are guaranteed within the Conservatives’ own ranks as well, where an ideological conflict has already matured between the younger and more “liberal” party leadership and the still power-hungry veterans.

As for if the post of Seimas speaker is handed to the Liberal Movement and its leader V. Čmilytė-Nielsen, this will provide more courage and muscle to this party, which has already gained some confidence after better than expected results in the second round.

And there’s more than enough ambition and desire for vengeance against the Conservatives from this party’s side. There will be ample tensions and sparks between these two allies-rivals, even without taking posts and thrones into account.

The same applies to the Liberal Movement and the Freedom Party. After all, what greater hatred can there be than recently parted companions? There have already been signals that there will be constant tussling on this front as well in the public statements of the Freedom Party’s leadership, stating that the Conservatives should not yield the post of Seimas speaker, impliedly to the Liberal Movement, and should keep it.

The relations between the Freedom Party and the Conservatives are a separate conflict topic. Firstly – between the Freedom Party members and the so-called Conservative’s Taliban.

But can these and all other divergences and tensions, existing now and due to emerge later, break down the entire coalition? The current prediction is that probably not. The Conservatives and liberal majority and cabinet has roughly even odds to survive all four years just as the now departing “Farmer” one had.

First and foremost – power is the best antidote from all ideological, value-based and political disagreements. Particularly if being in power in this sort of trio is the only chance for its members to remain in power.

Furthermore, just like in the incumbent Seimas, same with the new one – the opposition will be weak and scattered. The bled out “Farmers” and the still not truly recovered Social Democrats, as well as the Labour Party, which has taken a good bite out of the two others, are a far weaker triumvirate than the one found on the right.

Furthermore, these three organisations’ future prospects are dubious.

Imagine if S. Skvernelis left the “Farmers” and politics in general. Or R. Karbauskis. Or both. It is clear that this would lead to an even faster political death than the Labour Party without V. Uspaskich. There’s no chance of true replacement or internal renewal toward former glory and influence for this one-off project from the 2016 elections – even with the same R. Karbauskis and S. Skvernelis in the lead.

The Social Democrats currently find themselves in a true dead end. Who can replace G. Paluckas, who never really cut it? True, he’s not withdrawing. And how can they overall recover the voters lost to the “Farmers” and V. Uspaskich?

Nevertheless, as can be seen, the Conservatives majority could be just as, if not even more, unstable as that of the “Farmers” and still could keep from collapsing, all because there’s no one take up government instead. Furthermore, while the left seemingly could build a Seimas majority arithmetically, such a majority could quickly turn into a small, but arithmetic minority. Just as the current majority, which has long faced a lack of votes to reach 71 [needed for a simple majority].

Then, all important questions would be faced with constant bartering and trading, primarily with the Labour Party and A. Guoga, who keeps the price list perennially open there now and afterwards – the Social Democrats. And finally, even with the very same “Farmers.” Another source of votes is individual “half-breeds“, most of whom will be more inclined to dive to the left, toward the opposition.

To wrap up – the structurally similar Conservative and “Farmer”  majorities will nevertheless differ in one and perhaps decisive factor – the situation in the country. If the Naisiai storks nested on top of a rising economy and overall fairly stable situation, then the right-wing government has inherited the re-emerging pandemic, record budget debt and a general downturn.

In any case, just the change of government is good. Just because the current one was so hopeful and planning to not be replaced, to the point of only placing its efforts in the direction of this scenario, taking glances at, for example, neighbouring Poland.

But they failed – the “professionals” proved to be amateurs, unable to make use of the vast influence voters afforded them four years ago.

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