Conservatives on counter attack: do we still have a Government

Gabrielius Landsbergis
DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

Leader of the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats Gabrielius Landsbergis when talking about the increasingly stopping Government reforms retorted: there is no majority in the Parliament and Saulius Skvernelis is leading a minority Government.

Politicians working in the Parliament say that in order to make decisions S. Skvernelis team has to rely on “help from the audience” because the proposals are sometimes supported not by the ruling majority but by the opposition.


“The situation now looks even worse than at the start. Our hunch was right: when two months ago we said that this Government will need support, a lot of people were skeptical but our sincere commitment to support was meaningful because now there is no ruling majority” said G. Landsbergis when speaking with DELFI about the stalling reforms of the Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS) and the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) coalition Government.

Prime Minister S. Skvernelis didn’t comment on this. “The Prime Minister will not comment on the statements of G. Landsbergis” said adviser on public relations Tomas Beržinskas, when he gave the message of the position of the Head of the Government.


However, on the same day S. Skvernelis responded on G. Landsbergis statements on initiatives regarding alcohol restrictions and on Facebook suggested to “sit on the legendary chair of calming down”. The Social Democrats also received some words. When speaking about their new leader’s Gintautas Paluckas initiatives to develop an internal survey on improvement of the Labour Code, which can delay the talks on the project, S. Skvernelis said: we will evaluate the new communication method.

Doesn’t know who support


In response to the statement to party leader from the PM, Conservative and former PM Andrius Kubilius also stated on Facebook: is not clear who would need that “chair” more.

He raised the question – whether Lithuania still has a Government. “The government is the “majority Government”, if it is supported by the ruling coalition, which has more than half of the Parliament members. The government is a “minority government” if it is supported by less than half of the members of Parliament, in that case the Government can only act in agreement if the opposition is supporting the actions. … If the ruling coalition of the Parliament has no common position on the proposed bills that are under discussion, it stays in a permanent state of doubt whether the Parliament has a ruling majority” he declared.


A. Kubilius said that in Western democracies in this case the responsibility for the situation in the Parliament is taken by the political leader of the ruling coalition – the PM, who proposes to check the trust of the Parliamentary majority in him, linking the trust with the vote for one or another major reform of the law.

“The PM, instead of getting frustrated at the leader of the opposition because of technical and constructive suggestions should stop and “sit on the chair” himself and after calming down answer to himself if there is a real ruling majority in the Parliament. Because lately we see more signs that there is no ruling coalition on key issues: on the reform of forest enterprises, alcohol control, merging of the universities, the Labour Code. There is no common opinion on the most important issues and that’s why there are more accidental decisions” said the politician.


The day before, A. Kubilius examined S. Skvernelis course of promised important reforms on Facebook – neatly all of them are stalling.

When speaking to DELFI, A. Kubilius said that the Conservatives support the directions of reforms but they don’t see the Government’s abilities to present and defend the reforms in the Parliament, they are faced with the issue who should they support.


“We said that we will support the forest enterprise reform but the Government itself is scared of the LVŽS fraction, Social Democrats, and are running for the decision to the Constitutional Court. This is a proof of their powerlessness. The Labour Code becomes a patchwork of random provisions. What is there to support? And with all the reforms in this situation we’d be ready to support but no one is talking to us, which is what the Government is trying to do and sometimes it seems like the inability to implement reforms” said A. Kubilius.

G. Landsbergis: they can talk if they need to


G. Landsbergis said the same. “A few days ago the Parliament held an event “Freedom rock’n’roll” (protesting against the alcohol sales restrictions) that showed that alcohol amendments are bound to fail because the Parliament has no majority. Not to mention the fact that forest enterprises reform had the support of only Conservatives and Liberals, higher education reform is still in the future but there it’s difficult to decide there because the Government working group had one position and it changed, universities opposed and then the Prime Minister said: let the Parliament decide. Decide what? I see that the Prime Minister S. Skvernelis is the minority PM and it is not for the better” said the Conservative leader.

According to G. Landsbergis, his represented rights take leadership where they see that they is none. “And today it’s not anywhere and Lithuanian citizens will have to live with that for another four years. However, today we are talking about the fact that at least the most important things have to move forward” said he.


However, the public space S. Skvernelis often implies that he is holding the Conservatives, with whom negotiations on the ruling coalition stopped before they have even started immediately after the election, it’s a shift to the new partners – the Social Democrats. At least that’s how we understand the behaviour of the PM by periodically stating of a regular meeting with G. Landsbergis.

The leader of the Conservative called this “political games” “He didn’t benefit from the much. We support projects. Our support is not designed for Small Games” he explained.


According to G. Landsbergis, the results of these “games” is stalling reforms. “The fact that now S. Skvernelis is forced to appeal to the Constitutional Court for 42 forest enterprises and isn’t going to the Parliament to convince the groups to vote shows that there have been to many games here. Okay, we support it, what’s next? This means that you can’t convince. It’s an even bigger problem, not even the coalitions but his personal groups. And then he’s looking for something from the outside. Imagine if the Government is going to the Parliament through the Constitutional Court. Who’s PM are you? Games didn’t help, they just delayed important decisions” he stressed.

According to him, in this situation his party aims to be honest with the electorate and themselves. “Do we support the forest enterprises reform? We do. I’m not saying all of us do but the vast majority does. It’s the same with other projects. We told this to S. Skvernelis, if he needs it, he knows where to go” said G. Landsbergis.


Some criticize, others don’t see a problem

Paulius Saudargas also commented on the poor skills of the Government and critiqued the Christian democrat conservative wing, immediately after the parliamentary elections. “I think our coalition could have been more productive” he said.


Soon he added: “However it was no one could say but it is clear that this coalition really lacks the political will and consensus, even among themselves, as Farmers, it seems that they don’t always agree with the Social Democrats and there’s tension within the Farmers.

According to P. Saudargas it becomes obvious that there’s no unity. “Sometimes only opposition manages to do something, sometimes you can’t understand who applies most of the laws, regulations and it’s clear to see while in the meetings” he said.


At the same time Virginijus Sinkevičius (Chairman of the Seimas’ Economy Committee, Farmers and Greens Union) told DELFI that the ruling majority is working smoothly and demonstrating their commitment to the voters. “It is logical that the opposition is criticized. In the meantime, I don’t see major problems: the reform, which was committed to be implemented is in action. Unlike the Conservatives, we have executed our program instead of going against it” he said.

According to V. Sinkevičius, there are talk about managing the problems and the different positions inside the LVŽS. “Talks have been there for a long time, group is large but so far I do not see some kind of interference or dissatisfaction. The same is with the coalition, the coalition council is talking on key issues. Typical, normal working discussion. Meetings are held every week, dissatisfaction wasn’t noticed” explained the Farmers representative.


What could harm S. Skvernelis ratings

Vytautas Magnus University Professor Lauras Bielinis thinks that it becomes clear that the current ruling majority is not as united as it was expected at the beginning. “It is clear that LVŽS and the in the Social Democratic Party there are many people, who have a different opinion than the Farmer leaders are saying” he said.


According to the political scientist, PM S. Skvernelis shouldn’t get involved in discussions with the opposition and especially with partners, the Social Democrats, because his survival in office according to L. Bielinis strongly depends on the existence of the ruling majority.

“By trying to ruin the relations with Social Democrats he is breaking the ruling majority and the chair on which he sits” he said.


However, it might be that by doing this the PM tries to present himself as a non-systemic politician to continue the already established political game, demonstrating himself as independent from political parties and one that can make decisions on his own.

“Well, let him try. But in reality I don’t think so he can achieve a lot. Nevertheless Lithuania is a Parliamentary Republic, where the opinions of parties and the Parliament are the main factors that have an influence on the political outcome. Another thing, he is in politics and he represents a political system that manages Lithuania. But tries to present himself differently in the public because he can be anyone he wants in the public because it depends on the ability to speak to the public” said L. Bielinis.


In his opinion, whether or not the current tactics of S. Skvernelis will work in the long term will depend on several factors: primarily on whether or not the current ruling majority will remain, as well as from the ability of S. Skvernelis to not make any mistakes.

“And we see that he’s becoming more relaxed and is talking immaturely. He should be more serious in speeches and decisions. Moreover, let’s not forget that in addition to the political forces and public opinion, which is not a constant factor, if you’re liked today does not mean you will be liked forever. The media and the public can quickly turn away from S. Skvernelis and harm the rankings, which he now can enjoy” explained the political scientist.

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