While Andius Kubilius asks which “Farmer” member will fall next, the Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union remains on the first pages of news media releases. And it remains there not because of unique achievements, but due to continuously appearing corruption scandals, TV3.lt reported.
Law enforcement officials have expressed suspicions regarding the Panevėžys region mayor, Farmer – Greens Union (LVŽS) deputy Chairman Povilas Žagunis potentially abusing his authority in favour of the company Panevėžio Melioracija. Mayor Žagunis is a stockholder in the company and a member of its managing council. Yesterday it was also revealed that the Financial Crime Service is performing a large scale investigation, where another deputy of LVŽS Chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis, member of Seimas V. Rinkevičius, has been implicated. Povilas Žagunis withdrew his party membership yesterday. He has not, however, withdrawn from his post in the municipality.
In light of current events, how does the “Farmer’s” frequently declared transparency and intolerance for corruption appear?
This question was posed to Mykolas Romeris University Institute of Political Science lector Dr Virgis Valentinavičius, who commented that there isn’t much to be surprised about regarding the constantly appearing scandals. According to him, it was to be expected.
“When a person who counts wealth in tens or hundreds of millions rather than thousands and millions, you can expect all of this. It is to the point that we now see all the “Farmer” promises fall apart. One of them was to raise the standard of transparency to an incredible level. And be different to what the traditional parties were so far. They wanted to be better,” Valentinavičius stated. The expert points out that R. Karbauskis stated that P. Žagunis does not need to resign from his post as mayor because no other mayor has done so and just this shows that they are the same as those before them and the standard remains the same as ever before.
Similarities to Viktor Uspaskich?
The political scientist explains that Ramūnas Karbauskis has yet to realise that he has entered politics and the party has traits of a business. He notes that Karbauskis is the head of one of the largest Lithuanian companies – Agrokoncernas, with many party members having leadership positions in the company. He has interests with millions of euro involved and the possibilities of influencing individuals through financial power.
Valentinavičius sees similarities with Viktor Uspaskich as well, comparing Ramūnas Karbauskis’ ideas of gifting all children with a national costume with Viktor Uspaskich throwing ice cream from a helicopter during the Kėdainiai cucumber festival. The political scientist explains that this is basically buying voters, something done by businessmen, not politicians; thus showing R. Karbauskis as a typical Lithuanian oligarch.
Not understanding what a politician is
The expert also sees little chance of R. Karbauskis cleansing his party of individuals linked to corruption. Valentinavičius links this to supreme self-confidence on part of Karbauskis, based on his success as a businessman. At this point he has yet to grasp that he is a politician, not admitting that there was something going on with Greta Kildišienė, not recognise the media’s right to hold interest in his private life, that he is now under a magnifying glass.
“A politician who openly preaches on family bonds has no real right to hide his private life. He has to show that his life adheres to that which he talks of. We are not seeing these things. And all of Ramūnas Karbauskis’ business instincts of “I’ll do what I want and you matter not”, I do not think that he is changing, I do not see him yielding to training from news media and public opinion,” Valentinavičius said.
He predicts that either Karbauskis will change for the better or things will continue as now and the latter outcome is described as more likely because there have been no suggestions there has been a shift toward increased transparency, only continued opposition and denial of anything released in the media, somewhat akin to Algirdas Butkevičius during the last few months running up to the Seimas elections.
Easier to promise than to fulfil
The same question was posed to the head of the Lithuanian chapter of Transparency International, Sergej Muravjov.
Speaking of the transparency demanded from politicians, he stressed that it is always easier to make promises than to fulfil them. Muravjov also noted that the Farmer and Greens Union had an excellent to express their values without constraint, being a relatively new political power and lacking politicians in Seimas and the municipalities, to compare actions to words.
“And the standard for politicians should be not only the capacity to react to questions presented to them, but also being a good example,” the executive director of the Lithuanian Transparency International chapter said.
He points out that the increasing number of businessmen in politics is not necessarily a bad thing, with them having numerous original ideas, but the issue of managing interests and avoiding conflicts of interest is crucial so as to make sure that tax payers do not suffer for the benefit of interest groups.
Sometimes politicians simply forget transparency
“It is good to hear that politicians understand that transparency is a word that appeals to voters. Usage of it obliges and this is good news for us, the citizens of Lithuania because when you say you want to pursue transparency and will act transparently, then I believe that nowadays that is how you will have to act. This is because otherwise we are unlikely to vote for you next time. We see from research that people no longer want empty promises and are waiting for people and state officials to not only pass legislation, but also take specific action to rein in corruption and increase transparency,” S. Muravjov said.
He notes that the citizens have an important role to play and have the right to remind politicians that pledges made during electoral campaigns have not been forgotten because people tend to forget their promises, be it for convenience sake or be it for changed priorities .