“Farmer” unity breaking down: comrades stand against Karbauskis

Ramūnas Karbauskis
DELFI / Domantas Pipas

Tax reform and a new parliamentary investigation are two barriers that the “Farmers” are obstructed by, apparently failing to find common ground within the Seimas group, lrt.lt writes.

Some of the closest companions of Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS) leader Ramūnas KarbauskisRima Baškienė, Tomas Tomilinas and Stasys Jakeliūnas are increasingly frequently opposed to the majority’s initiatives. The “Farmer” chairman himself believes that his colleagues’ initiatives are simply a waste of time, but the group is not threatened with breaking apart due to it.

This year the government’s tax reform has antagonised the “Farmers” against one another from the very start because cabinet initiatives were opposed by LVŽS group member S. Jakeliūnas-led Budget and Finance Committee (BFK) and the Social Affairs and Labour Committee (SRDK), whose vice chair is “Farmer” T. Tomilinas.

“Farmer” group prefect R. Karbauskis and Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis registered compromise legislative amendments and the BFK and SRDK stood down, conceding to a part of the proposals. Nevertheless, the committees also agreed with separate initiatives by parliamentarians not linked to the cabinet tax reform package, for example implementing the 20% and 27% citizen income tax tariff. The Seimas will still need to vote on all the proposals.

This week, the “Farmer” camp once more returned to talks of initiating a new parliamentary investigation into politician and business links. It is not dismissed that the correspondence between President Dalia Grybauskaitė and former Liberal Movement leader Eligijus Masiulis could become a subject of the investigation.

Changed mind on taxation, but do not want the investigation

First deputy Seimas speaker, influential “Farmer” R. Baškienė told lrt.lt that she recently recommended to not rush tax reform and leave these questions to the Seimas autumn session, however the MP has now changed her position. That said, she was not certain that the Seimas will approve the cabinet’s tax reform plans.

“Everything is possible and various changes could occur. It will certainly be no tragedy if the Seimas decides otherwise or fails to reach a compromise because the entire Seimas must find a solution,” R. Baškienė stated.

According to her, both T. Tomilinas and S. Jakeliūnas view certain aspects of the tax reform with great scepticism, however the “Farmer” MP downplays it.

“There is no fracture in the group, only differences of opinion,” she stated.

R. Baškienė had a completely other position when asked about “Farmer” leader R. Karbauskis’ desire to initiate another parliamentary investigation. According to her, after the National Security and Defence Committee (NSGK) investigation, currently it is best to take up legislative amendments to obstruct potential corrupt activities, rather than diving into other investigations.

“If my colleagues believe that such an investigation is needed, then ok, let us figure it out, think, what questions we could have, what tasks. But today, the priority of the conclusion of this session is tax legislation.

Our work is not to form one commission after another. Yes, parliamentary oversight is important, but we must not deal in only investigations, we should do what we as politicians must do – amend and improve legislation,” R. Baškienė stated.

Lrt.lt reminds that NSGK chairman, “Farmer” group member Vytautas Bakas is also sceptical of initiating a new investigation.

Unwilling to talk of transferring to the Conservatives

According to lrt.lt sources, the increasing disagreement within the “Farmer” group is also linked with MPs elected in single-mandate districts being discontent with the party’s falling ratings. There are talks in the Seimas couloirs that certain LVŽS representatives have even begun thinking of other groups. One of them is supposedly non-partisan group member Raimundas Martinėlis, who is potentially considering moving to the Conservative camp. This LVŽS group member is in the editorial Seimas commission, which decided on whether to accept the “Farmer” delegated Environment Minister Kęstutis Navickas‘ interpellation answers and did not support the minister, abstaining in the vote.

When asked, what such a vote means, R. Martinėlis did not provide lrt.lt with a clear answer, only noting that he “supports the prime minister and the government programme.”

The MP assured the news portal that in terms of tax reform questions, there is no unity in the “Farmer” ranks, however he downplayed it because according to him, there are varied opinions in other Seimas groups as well.

R. Martinėlis stated that he is unwilling to discuss his political prospects and potential move to the Conservative group.

“I do not wish to discuss this topic right now. Being non-partisan, my decisions are freer. I am a member of the group, so I am automatically a member of a team. Yes, I have my own opinion, which sometimes diverges a little. On the other hand, as a non-partisan, I have more freedom in my actions,” the MP explained.

R. Karbauskis lashes out at a colleague

“Farmer” leader R. Karbauskis assured lrt.lt that he has heard rumours of R. Martinėlis’ desire to leave the LVŽS group before, however he stated that he does not believe such rumours and has never heard any threats from R. Martinėlis about leaving.

In terms of the “Farmer” position on tax reform, R. Karbauskis noted that there are “two or three people” in the group, who have their own proposals, but the group will apparently not support them.

“In one case an individual is trying to display his political view, but is as if one finger. I am speaking of T. Tomilinas because he is very involved in tax issues. But this is his wish, no one can prohibit him from presenting offers.

S. Jakeliūnas also has his own view, though while working in a workgroup, we found compromise solutions. He believes that there are yet other proposals that are needed. I do not believe that they will receive support in voting in Seimas,” R. Karbauskis spoke of “Farmer” moods regarding tax reform.

“If a member of Seimas believes that it is necessary to waste his colleagues’ time registering proposals, which his group colleagues will not support, let him go ahead. After all, I have told him: “You’re only wasting your time because your proposals will not have group backing,” the “Farmer” leader revealed his views of T. Tomilinas’ actions.

He warned T. Tomilinas and S. Jakeliūnas that their initiatives could be supported by the opposition and thus could endanger the reform itself. However, R. Karbauskis noted he believes that nevertheless the group will back his and S. Skvernelis’ compromise reform package.

When asked, whether the “Farmer’s” unity will not be broken in the pursuit of a new parliamentary investigation on politicians and business links, R. Karbuskis emphasised that the doubts of a few colleagues will not obstruct his plans.

“The efforts of a few MPs, who wish to be visible or have different opinions, to present their opinion as that of the group are simply empty. The group’s opinion will be expressed in voting. I have no doubt that the variant proposed in the strategic committee will be supported,” the “Farmer” leader accented.

The LVŽS leader summarised that the disputes in the “Farmer” group only show that this is a democratic group.

“There has yet to be a case where we would fail to achieve what we wanted,” R. Karbauskis spoke with confidence on the group’s unity.

“Farmer”: R. Karbauskis cannot deny reality

SRDK deputy chairman T. Tomilinas of the “Farmer” explained to lrt.lt that the committee has backed most of the cabinet’s proposals on tax reform, thus there is no needed to dramatize the discussion. Nevertheless, the MP stated he has no plans to back down from his proposal to establish a 20% income tax tariff for personal income from capital, despite neither cabinet, nor R. Karbauskis supporting this.

“I showed R. Karbauskis all my proposals, my proposals are open, public and we discuss them openly. I disagree with his opinion. The discussion continues and R. Karbauskis cannot deny reality. I am not alone in this. Yes, most may vote otherwise, it is understandable. I am simply disagreeing with the formulation that this is a waste of time, even if one side or another, that is to say mine or R. Karbauskis’, will remain in the minority,” T. Tomilinas responded to R. Karbauskis’ comments.

The SRDK deputy head stated that the differences in opinion among the “Farmers” do not mean that the group is threatened with breaking apart.

“I know R. Karbauskis for more than 15 years, we have exchanged such opinions for some 150 times and I always repeat: “You dedicate too little attention to economic policy, you take no interest in it and afterward ministers, who have more liberal views, make the decisions. Differences of opinion are normal, if we had subordinate relations, then it would be bad,” the MP commented.

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