If failed to win the president post – then the Parliament? Talks about Vėgėlė’s party

The Seimas DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

Politicians who are already drawing the outlines of the new ruling majority should take their time, as a completely unexpected player – lawyer Ignas Vėgėlė – may still appear in next year’s Seimas elections and shuffle all the cards, Indrė Naureckaitė says in lrytas.lt.

However, such warnings from political analysts do not surprise the politicians themselves – according to them, in case of a defeat in the presidential elections, Vėgėlė would not want to scatter the accumulated popularity just yet, and therefore, the establishment of a new party is a quite probable scenario.

Plan B?

 On Monday evening, Vytautas Bruveris, editor-in-chief of the news agency ELTA, said in the programme “LRT Forum” that he could confidently predict the future ruling majority.

The journalist guessed that it would consist of at least three parties, probably the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP), the Democratic Union “In the Name of Lithuania” (DSVL) or the Union of Lithuanian Peasants and Greens (LVŽS), and a third political entity, such as the party of I. Vėgėlė.

“If Vėgėlė does not win the presidential election – and it is possible that he will not – then this could be a good start for him and a turning point against his political career in general, which he is planning as an independent player, having refused particularly tempting mesalliance offers with many parties, including the same peasants,” Bruveris argued in his prediction.

Mažvydas Jastramskis, a lecturer at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University, pointed out several precedents when a candidate who loses a presidential election goes to the Seimas on a wave of popularity.

“The election cycle works because if Vėgėlė does not win the presidency, he goes to the parliamentary elections on that wave. However, he will have to play the game because he will have to go to the presidential elections as a non-partisan candidate,” Jastramskis stressed.

 However, the presidential elections are already in May next year, so the political analyst questioned how Vėgėlė could manage to form and register a party before the October parliamentary elections.

At the same time, Rima Urbonaitė, a political scientist at Mykolas Romeris University (MRU), reminded during the programme that Vėgėlė had already mentioned such a plan B – the creation of his party – in the past.

 “It’s not that he hasn’t mentioned this alternative; that’s why we are discussing it – it’s not just a matter of our imagination. Let’s not forget that a party can be built a little earlier, and people can start gathering. As a leader, he can jump on this train much later – after the presidential election campaign,” Urbonaitė noted.

 However, politicians were interviewed by the news portal lrytas.lt differed in their opinions on Vėgėlė’s election plans.

S. Skvernelis: I. Vėgėlė has two options

 Saulius Skvernelis, the chairman of the Democratic Union “In the Name of Lithuania” (DSVL), has no doubts that I. Vėgėlė will take part in the presidential elections – just as he has no doubts about Vėgėlė’s candidacy for the Seimas in the event of a loss of presidential elections.

 “If you make such a step, why sacrifice time, health, finances, and what day on 12 May would you end that career?” – Skvernelis asked rhetorically.

So, according to Skvernelis, a person who participates in politics has two options: to create his party (a highly complex process) or to join a more minor, formally existing party.

However, the former Prime Minister assured that Vėgėlė had not discussed the possibility of cooperation with the Democratic Union “In the Name of Lithuania”.

“He certainly did not talk to us. I spoke to him a couple of years ago, when he finished his career as council chairman, in general phrases. But we have never talked about any joint political action,” the MEP pointed out.

Karbauskis: If Vėgėlė appeal to LVŽS were available, we would consider it

At the time, the chairman of the Lithuanian State Farmers’ and Greens’ Union (LVŽS), Ramūnas Karbauskis, said that he had spoken to Vėgėlė about possible cooperation in the presidential elections but that Vėgėlė’s participation in the parliamentary elections was just speculation.

Karbauskis stressed that if Vėgėlė did not form his party before the presidential elections, there would be no time for it after the presidential elections, as a political organisation registered later than 180 days before the election date could not participate in the polls.

 However, if Vėgėlė were to apply to the Peasants to join in the Seimas elections with LVŽS, Karbauskis would consider such a possibility.

“If there were such an appeal, hypothetically speaking, to the LVŽS from I. Vėgėlė, we would certainly consider it.

But imagine the situation – he has to take part in the presidential elections if he doesn’t win the presidential elections, he has to want to take part in the parliamentary elections, and then he has to decide whether to apply – we will be well into our election campaign, we will have a list, we will have a single-member state.

 All this looks pretty complicated, but hypothetically, I can say that yes – we could consider it”, – said the LVŽS Chairman.

 However, Karbauskas was puzzled by Vėgėlė’s conversations with other political forces.

 “Listening to Vėgėlė’s speeches, it now seems that he is looking for support both among liberals and among people who have traditional values.

 This is very strange because when a person talks to the Social Democrats and Skvernelis Democrats, he is talking to the liberals – it doesn’t matter that they are in the opposition; they are liberals in their views. In this situation, I do not understand how this can be reconciled”, said the leader of LVŽS.

“Maybe Vėgėlė is just probing the general situation, but if he is seriously talking to these parties, then there is nothing for us to talk to him about”, he added.

 Karbauskis also does not believe that Vėgėlė could participate in the Seimas elections with an existing smaller political force that did not make it to the Seimas.

 According to him, reaching an agreement with the smaller parties would be difficult, and there is nothing to negotiate.

 “With whom? With P. Gražulis? I don’t see with whom because the image of that small party will affect the candidate himself. What is the point of bringing a group of people he doesn’t know to the Seimas?

 I agree that he will set up his party and his team, but one of these small parties would accept that his whole team would not have its ambitions?

 We have seen in many elections how the small parties cannot agree on anything. Leaders of parties that get one per cent in the elections sit down, try to agree and never do – they are all full of ambition and consider that one per cent to be significant to them,” Karbauskis recalled.

 “If any political scientist or journalist would tell me the specific name (of a non-parliamentary party with which I. Vėgėlė could run for office), I would explain why it is impossible”, he added.

 Karbauskis agrees that after losing the presidential elections, Vėgėlė would not want to end his political career just yet, but the LVŽS leader sees the best way for Vėgėlė to win the presidential elections in another five years when the incumbent president Gitanas Nausėda will not take part in the polls.

“The chances of I. Vėgėlė winning this election against G.Nausėda are slim,” Karbauskis believes.

There were no conversations

 Andrius Mazuronis, the chairman of the Labour Party, said he was surprised by Vėgėlė’s statement that he was currently talking to all political parties about his participation in politics, as he had not spoken to the “Workers”.

 “It was strange for me, too. I always said that if he says he is meeting with everybody, he could mention that he is meeting with everybody except us. No, there was no contact with us, no conversation”, he pointed out.

However, Mazuronis said that he had heard rumours that if he lost the presidential elections, Vėgėlė would start his political party.

 “I imagine that he has a twofold plan. First of all, he would run for the presidential elections, and in this plan, he would not want the party’s support. Naturally, if that fails, he will probably try to formalise himself into some movement to participate in the Seimas elections as soon as possible.

There are several ways to do this: joining an existing political party, a legal entity that is already registered but doesn’t exist. Or to create something entirely new, but I don’t know if it would have enough people working around it because it is pretty challenging to do that”, Mazuronis said.

The Lithuanian Social Democratic Party also said it had no official meetings with Vėgėlė, and the question about possible cooperation with Vėgėlė even made social democrat Gintautas Paluckas laugh.

 “We have no shortage of candidates; I don’t know what he can offer or ask for”, he said.

E. Gentvilas: we wouldn’t find many other cases

At the same time, Eugenijus Gentvilas, the elder of the Liberal Movement group in the Seimas, considers the idea of I. Vėgėlė to create his party to be a “completely logical” one.

“A person who runs for the presidency and has a chance of success – not necessarily winning, but a chance of a good performance – has to think about whether he will shine like a meteorite in the night sky or whether he will leave something behind after his successful candidacy,” the MP said.

 E. Gentvilas recalled how Petras Auštrevičius, who had not been involved in politics before, took part in the 2004 presidential elections, came third, and then integrated into the Liberals and continued his political career.

 “There are probably not many cases where people who have been so successful in the presidential elections, who have come 2-3 places in the presidential elections, would withdraw and not participate in politics. For Vėgėlė, such an opportunity smell. A 2-3 place finish would be a successful performance for a debutant, and it would be logical for him to think about a possible future career after that.

 If he remains such a psycho loner with nothing, what will you do alone? Wait another five years for the next election? Therefore, it would be perfectly logical for him to construct his political party, which he would then go on to somewhere else, at some later date,” the MEP assessed.

The Liberal also cited the examples of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and France’s President Emmanuel Macron, where people from the country start their political careers by running for the presidency and forming their parties.

Noting that Vėgėlė would undoubtedly participate in the presidential elections as a non-partisan candidate and that after the presidential elections, there would be too little time left to establish a party, Gentvilas put together an intermediate, possible scenario.

 “For example, the party would be created in April, but Vėgėlė is not in the party yet. The party elects an interim chairman, Vėgėlė participates in the presidential elections as an independent candidate, and after the elections, in June, he takes the helm of the party instead of the interim leader.

 This would be a kind of voter fraud, pretending that “I’m not a party! I have nothing to do with any party!”, but there is a chair ready to be placed next to the party leader,” the Liberal reflected.

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