Even the Conservatives kick the Freedom Party as it faces blows

Aušrinė Armonaitė
Aušrinė Armonaitė, DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

The divorce between Saulius Skvernelis and Ramūnas Karbauskis has left the “Farmers” greatly ruffled. However, they find consolation in that the ruling bloc Freedom Party has had its wings clipped, even more, Tada Ignatavičius wrote in lrytas.lt news portal.

A public opinion survey released on Lietuvos Rytas confirmed that the former “Farmer” tandem’s divorce did not benefit R. Karbauskis – his party now finds itself under the Conservatives [in ratings].

However, according to opposition representatives, despite S. Skvernelis and R. Karbauskis turning in different directions, the Freedom Party is even worse off – it is facing blows not only from voters but also the Conservatives who feel themselves to be more powerful. They began suppressing the Freedom Party’s proposed initiatives with far more confidence than before. A number of them have been scrapped in recent days.

Suppressed outrage

Perhaps the most eloquent example is the rejection of a proposal of the Freedom Part’s Morgana Danielė last week regarding the abolishing of prison time for the contraband of narcotics.

The Freedom Party member wasn’t even afforded the opportunity to present her project. At the request of the “Farmers”, the Criminal Code amendments were erased from the agenda.

The opposition’s unwillingness to consider the amendments was enthusiastically supported by the Conservatives as well, though their representative Jurgis Razma rushed off to console the irate Freedom Party MPs after the voting.

“It was as if the smoke would soon bust out through their ears,” Seimas Vice-Speaker Andrius Mazuronis of Labour laughed after seeing the drama from up close.

Bashing amendments

The Freedom Party aim of decriminalising light narcotics has caused no less upheaval in Seimas.

An alcohol control law amendment project drafted by a workgroup led by Seimas Vice-Speaker Vytautas Mitalas of the Freedom Party is also almost turned upside down at the hands of the Conservatives.

After lengthy discussions, the workgroup proposed to abandon certain current restrictions, thus allowing alcohol sales to 18-year-olds and also alcohol sales after 3 PM on Sundays.

However, instead of approving this, the Conservatives proposed to entirely ban alcohol sales on Sundays. The Healthcare Committee approved of this.

V. Mitalas’ amendments to the public procurement law were also trashed. While the proposal to centralise up to 30% of public procurements was also supported by the cabinet, the Seimas decided to go down a stricter path and charged municipalities to centralise all procurements valued at over 15 thousand euro.

With the Seimas adopting the public procurement law amendments, customers will now on also have to take into account what wages the supplier pays their staff.

V. Mitalas is convinced that the directive will not work in reality and so proposed to scrap it, but neither the ruling bloc nor the opposition supported it.

Criticism for criticism

Both opponents and fellow ruling bloc members also mock Freedom Party leader Aušrinė Armonaitė’s idea to apply a citizen income tax exemption for qualified emigrants who choose to return.

The minister of economics and innovation believes that this exemption could encourage migrants to return, but this idea fascinated neither economists nor Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė.

It appears that the proposal by A. Armonaitė, who was elected in the world Lithuanians electoral district, even leaves doubts among nationals living abroad, who are its target.

Some of the Conservatives say that the minister’s proposal is spontaneous, just like many other initiatives from the Freedom Party. Behind the scenes in Seimas, the coalition partners describe them as childish.

Seemingly looking for payback for all their previously extinguished efforts, the Freedom Party demolished a tax reform constructed by the Ministry of Finance over nine months.

V. Mitalas declared that the Freedom Party is against the creation of new taxes and, furthermore, that supposedly, some of the proposed taxes will only irritate the people without yielding tangible benefits.

Mounting anger

Seimas Liberal Movement group prefect Eugenijus Gentvilas conceded to Lietuvos Rytas that it’s not difficult to put together a puzzle from disparate fragments, which show that there is a lack of discussion and coordination in the ruling coalition.

The politician admitted that the proposal by M. Danielė, which was removed from the agenda, was a surprise not only for the coalition partners: “On the eve of the sitting, V. Mitalas admitted that even the Freedom Party group didn’t know of these amendments.”

E. Gentvilas didn’t hide that the Liberals were also confused by the Ministry of Finance chose to publicise fragments of the proposed tax reform before discussing them in the coalition.

“We were inclined to criticise them, but, unlike the Freedom Party, we decided to abstain from it this time.

How should such a step be interpreted? Badly in that, there is no habit of negotiating, listening, perhaps making amendments. I can say that same of some of the Freedom Party’s initiatives, which sometimes turn out to not even have been discussed in their own ranks.

He was referring to not only M. Danielė’s amendment or A. Armonaitė‘s idea for a tax exemption for emigrants but also earlier proposals.

The Freedom Party has proposed the legalisation of sex change, bilingual signs, establishing fines for hate speech and mockery. That said, Minister of Justice Evelina Dobrovolska retracted this proposal after facing a deluge of criticism over it.

E. Gentvilas is convinced that in many cases, such noisy proposals yield little result and showcase the politicians’ lack of maturity.

“I have been insistently repeating ever since spring that we must form a coalition council, which could be used to calmly discuss key questions.

However, the Conservatives’ leader Gabrielius Landsbergis reacted to it by claiming that supposedly, the Liberals want to handle their internal disputes through it. I wasn’t insulted by this, but I continue to believe that not talking is not an option. Talking would smooth over many rough edges,” the Liberal Movement group prefect said.

No looming divorce?

While there is a clear lack of communication within the coalition, E. Gentvilas supposedly does not perceive any more serious confrontation or looming divorce between the partners: “While the Freedom Party’s youth make mistakes, I think they won’t make a decisive one.

Furthermore, the politician conceded that the changes in the “Farmer” camp further reduced tensions among the ruling bloc because the opposition has become even more fragmented, its ability to resist the ruling bloc has lessened and the Conservatives now have more room to manoeuvre for votes during critical moments.

Seimas first Vice-Speaker J. Razma of the Conservatives nevertheless voiced doubt over whether S. Skvernelis would care to assist the ruling bloc – “He is our main critic, jabbing at the cabinet at even the smallest opportunity and we have no illusions that the new group will support us.”

Furthermore, J. Razma thinks that an alliance with S. Skvernelis would also be detrimental to him as well. “When the cabinet and ruling bloc work under such conditions, you won’t accrue political points by joining.”

While admitting that the occasional misfires among the ruling bloc do not honour the coalition, the politician assured that the impression that the Conservatives disregard the Freedom Party is mistaken.

No major tensions

Does the Freedom Party feel like it is being bulled in the coalition?

When asked this, V. Mitalas responded that the situation is more akin to that in spring when the Freedom Party could have felt betrayed when the partnership law initiative failed.

V. Mitalas also mused that in seeking benefits for themselves and looking to solely appease its voters, the Freedom Party should perhaps question if it should remain in the coalition and share responsibility for crisis management, but the party is committed to working together.

That said, the politician did not hide that they find an inclination to negotiate on key questions related to the autumn political agenda lacking.

Nevertheless, V. Mitalas rejected claims that the particularly acute Freedom Party rhetoric over the Ministry of Finance’s tax reform could have been provoked as revenge for the Conservatives’ previously rejected ideas.

“It was the ministry itself that provoked the Freedom Party, proposing public discussions on reform fragments not yet discussed in the coalition.

I think that our voters await a very clear message on what the Freedom Party thinks of it.

Truth be told, the time of deliberation dragged on a great deal – the ministry dove into details without summarising what would actually change and it remained unclear,” the Seimas vice-speaker said.

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