Conservatives hot-headed show: who will suffer most?

I. Šimonytė and G. Landsbergis @ELTA A. Ufartas

Not everyone is convinced by Lithuania’s political crisis and the Government’s threats to resign after the last NATO delegation leaves Vilnius. According to political analysts and communication experts, what Lithuania has been watching since Friday is nothing more than a show of hotheads. The Conservatives do not have a plan. According to the experts, they are throwing a political bomb at people’s feet and watching how they react. It is the public’s reactions, not the politicians’ principles, that will determine the future fate of the Government, Jūratė Važgauskaitė is writing at the news portal.

The experts interviewed by almost unanimously agreed that they do not believe that the Seimas will decide to give in and call new elections.

It is useless for anyone and not worth hoping for a minority government either; no one will want to get their hands dirty and burn themselves on the pyre of unfinished business. It is true that the Conservatives have done one thing prudently and quite cleverly, raising the political temperature to the maximum – they have shared the burden of blame with the entire political spectrum.

According to the Conservatives, everyone is to blame because almost everyone has fallen into the trap of the ‘cheques’, which is why early elections are needed. The President of the Conservative Party went even further and, in a letter to politicians, called on them to remember that there are “unanswered questions about the transparency of the campaign of President Gitanas Nausėda and the subsequent debt repayment”. So the political puzzle continues, and experts say it will be interesting.

Speaking and waiting for reactions

Arijus Katauskas, a communications specialist, says that the situation in which the Conservative Party finds itself today, and with it the government, is about to get even more interesting. According to the expert, the current speeches are only a prelude, and the politicians threatening to resign have probably not yet made any decision but are just looking at the public’s reactions.

“Confusion is to be expected in the future. At the moment, those in power have no easy way out. Firstly, the Parliament needs a certain number of votes to resign. There are many parties that would have to take such a decision as to withdraw from the Parliament earlier. It is a difficult decision. The other thing is that the whole situation is such that we need to talk about the Seimas and local government.

There is not much talk about that yet, but the demands on politicians are demands on politicians. So the whole situation now is that there will be a lot of noise. And the Conservatives themselves, the ruling majority, need it. Because the next steps depend on the way in which the communication is done, what is talked about and what position is taken.

Because we are seeing a debate in the public space about whether it is good or bad to give in to the Seimas, the politicians have made their move, they are monitoring the situation, and they will plan their steps according to the situation in the public space”, – said A. Katauskas.

According to him, what we are hearing now are just “intermediate statements, intermediate sayings”. The situation is not yet clear and will only become clear when politicians gauge the public reaction.

“There is no definitive goal and no visible end result yet. The communication specialist reflected that the only goal is to close the topic”.

He added that politicians proposing to dissolve the Seimas are simply shifting the responsibility onto the shoulders of the public, the voters. “If they (the Seimas) resign and the same politicians continue to run in the elections, this whole story of misappropriation of funds will be blown out of the water after them. You made your own choices knowing the facts. I think that is the main point. The question is to what extent it can be implemented.

I think the only way it can be implemented is that, among the three points that the Conservative Bureau has set out, there should be a fourth point: they undertake not to put anything on the lists that cannot justify the use of the funds. But there is no such clause. So far, this is a trick played nicely by the Conservatives, but I don’t think the public will let it go,” said Katauskas.

A clever public relations move

He added that smart people in the Conservative Party work on strategic, political communication. But it is important to understand, according to Katauskas, how the Conservatives arrived at the kind of communication we saw on Friday.

“In the beginning, it was very bad. That topic could have been closed much earlier. But the Conservative Party denied the problem and explained that everything was fine. When it became clear that all was not well, something had to be done. The Conservative Party was at the forefront of the attack, even though, as we now see, all parties are involved in the matter. In this place, what did they (the Conservatives) do? They moved on from themselves. They have moved (the problem) and expanded the number of attacks. They have come and said that this is everybody’s problem, so the Parliament has to go, and we are going to make this proposal. <…> In this situation, the Presidency played the best game. Its move left no options”, explained the communication specialist.

The Conservatives expansion of the number of attackers, making it everybody’s problem and, as it were, taking it away from themselves, was, according to Katauskas, a cunning move. But it is also a move on the bank.

“And when a politician or a party goes for the bank, then it can be assumed that all other options have been assessed and it has been decided that this is the best option. Is that to be admired? Politicians here have made even more interesting games in the public space, but the Conservatives have raised the temperature to the max. <…> They have shifted responsibility from themselves to all political parties and all levels. You can say that this is a very good step in terms of communication, but if you look at the geopolitical situation, at what is in the public sphere to provoke premature elections, to raise questions about local government, I would say it is presumptuous. Well, but they did it. Now we will see what they will do next”, said A. Katauskas, a communication specialist.

It’s not just us who will suffer

Political analyst Ieva Petronytė-Urbonavičienė believes that today we are uncertain, so it is difficult to predict the next political moves. She says there are many scenarios, but predicting what will happen to us today is impossible.

“All options are possible now. Although some things, it seems to me, have now been said on the hot ones. The important thing is how the other political forces will react and how the votes will look. We can also hope that Ingrida Šimonytė herself will change her mind. Maybe someone else will persuade her to do so after the NATO meeting. Or can we talk about a minority government? It is also possible that the political crisis will hit hard and fail to be resolved, and then we will have to think about compromises.

So, there are plenty of options, but it has to be admitted that the situation is not a simple one. The political scientist reflected that the context in which everything is happening is relevant for everyone”.

According to her, high political uncertainty undermines the overall political field and even international relations, the way Lithuania is seen and perceived.

“We are talking about domestic politics at a very difficult time when there are huge threats and national security issues. With the NATO summit under our noses and our activity in the international arena in general, it is obvious that the government’s reloading would have repercussions not only on domestic politics but also on foreign policy,” said Petronytė-Urbonavičienė, who questioned whether many politicians would be willing and able to try on the government’s “boots”, which are not small or light. 

Lots of talks – little work

Political analyst Bernard Ivanovas explains that he does not believe that the government will resign as Šimonytė promised on Saturday. According to him, it is not the first time a prime minister says something and then does not. He believes that this time will be just that. And he does not believe in early elections and the formation of a minority government because it would be very disadvantageous for anyone who would take it up. Therefore, he believes that everything should remain in place, with minor changes.

“This is verbal equivalence. The NATO summit will pass, and somehow things will work out”, the political scientist said, convinced that this story may not have been spun without the help of outsiders, possibly revengeful banks. Because legally, he said, this story is null and void.

“Why should someone resign over this? There were bigger problems that did not lead to resignations. And if he resigns, it will only mean one thing, another political game to prepare the situation for the next elections. <…> Some conservatives are even saying on social networks that they hear that this might be a good opportunity for Šimonyte to run for the Presidency afterwards. All the bad memories would supposedly be a thing of the past”, he said, convinced that a minority government is simply impossible.

No one would want to form a minority government, he said, because why should they?

“Everything will remain the same. The statements about withdrawal are about the desire to win time. A year and a bit before the elections, who wants to change anything? And if they resign and change to a new government, what will they build? Get them out of the European Parliament? They have no candidates. The bench is short.

Those who could are long gone, and those who are here and now are among those who are resigning. Premature elections to the Parliament could break the system a little, but I do not believe it will take off. And I do not believe in a government reshuffle in principle. There are simply no people to replace, so the Conservatives will not do it. And a minority government?

Why should the peasants or Saulius Skvernelis’ people, the Social Democrats, take that on now? Lithuania is in a recession, there are so many problems that it needs a Hercules to sort it out, and a minority government would not have the support of the Seimas. So we would still need to find a political suicide to take on such a task”, Ivanovas explained.

No one wants to do the dirty work

The only real solution, he said, is a new Seimas and a new majority, which will have to take very unpopular decisions in order to resolve the current quagmire.

But the current Parliament, he said, will not be willing to budge. There is no political will to do so because most of the current MPs will no longer be part of the new Seimas.

“What is needed is the political will for the leaders of the political parties to get together and decide. But some politicians realise that they will not be elected or face political oblivion. And now they have a year in power, so that weasel in the hand is important to them. Therefore, the part that does not want to step down will not be small. So far, none of the politicians have said that dissolving the Seimas is a really good idea. Not even Ramūnas Karbauskis has said that” Ivanovas said.

The political scientist recalled that Lithuanian Seimas do not like to let go. The Seimas’ predecessor, the Supreme Council, did it only once.

“After that, the Seimas worked, some of them in a weak and crooked way, but they worked until the end of the term. And the last year before the elections is always such a preparation for life afterwards, so people have to take care of things. So no, I don’t think anyone would jump into the dirt,” the political scientist said.

He recalled that there were very few minority governments in Lithuania. And it is understandable why because it is a technical government that finds it very difficult to do anything because political will and support are usually very scarce.

B. Ivanovas reflected that it might be easier in another country, but with the lack of political maturity in Lithuania, a minority government is a very bad idea.

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