If the SocDems depart the coalition, the “Farmers” would be left on the brink

Saulius Skvernelis, Ramūnas Karbauskis and Gintautas Paluckas
DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

The Lithuanian Social Democrat Party is soon to be faced with turbulent times. If the party withdraws from the coalition government, Seimas Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis claims that a new group would form from politicians intending to continue working with the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union. This sort of claim is held as laughable by political scientists, while former Prime Ministers recommend to recall what they experienced in the face of similar challenges TV3.lt reported.

In 2006 social democrat Gediminas Kirkilas had to form the so far only minority government in the history of independent Lithuania. In that case the Labour Party, which formed the majority of the coalition, fractured and the majority vanished. The former Prime Minister calls his experience a time of trials.

“The economic circumstances were different, inflation was high. Practically every question had to be negotiated both in the coalition and with the opposition. Particularly the budget because it is a difficult question. I would meet with our coalition partners and the opposition almost every week. I would constantly invite prefects from various parties to deliberate on various issues. Thus it is not just experience that you need in such a case, but also a specific mindset. Whether or not it exists, it would form. When you are in the minority, you have to start thinking,” G. Kirkilas told tv3.lt.

Similar problems arose in 2008 as well during Andrius Kubilius‘ government. Arūnas Valinskas‘ National Resurrection Party fractured and one group left the coalition.

“Our coalition was not all that strong and influential, we had to count on every single vote. As Prime Minister I felt a great responsibility that our coalition partners would feel safe and not just as arithmetical additions, thus we would have many discussions and disputes. This slowed down decision making, but allowed us to safeguard the coalition from the things we are seeing now, where the Social Democrats are feeling unvalued, just an add-on to the “Farmer” group,” A. Kubilius told tv3.lt.

Meanwhile V. Pranckietis’ thoughts of members of Seimas gathering into a new group are described as surreal by Vytautas Magnus University Social Science Department dean Algis Krupavičius.

“I would think that it is not a very realistic scenario. Perhaps we could expect some of the Social Democrats to break off, perhaps the mixed group could divide up somehow. These sort of scenarios are most likely being discussed, but they are definitely theoretical and not practical,” Krupavičius told tv3.lt.

Minority cabinet would be hostage to political powers

There is a high likelihood that were the Social Democrats to withdraw from the coalition, the “Farmers” would repeat the story of G. Kirkilas’ minority government. In such a case political scientist A. Krupavičius believes the “Farmers” would be left in a political swamp.

“They would have to seek allies for every single individual decision. Such politics demand much time, negotiations, deliberations and is a particularly difficult choice. A minority government is always hostage to other political powers. For example the LVŽS, who promised various changes in their programme; if they work in a minority government, they would have no chances of implementing the changes,” A. Krupavičius stated.

A. Kubilius believes the Seimas autumn session will bring forth much political chaos and it is not worth expecting any new achievements from members of Seimas, nor results.

“I believe that the Social Democrats are experiencing a sort of period of internal crisis, similarly the “Farmers” are in a deep crisis themselves. Thus imagining that the remaining “Farmers” will be able to make any sort of decisions would be exceedingly naïve. Of course it could happen that the “Farmers” choose to not make any decisions at all and just remain in power without any significant work or goals set,” Kubilius said.

Meanwhile G. Kirkilas states that what is most important for a minority government is how the Prime Minister manages to communicate with the opposition and party prefects. According to Kirkilas, arrogance must be left aside and one must listen to others.

Coalition with the TS-LKD – hopeless

A minority government is not the only scenario that could develop, if the Social Democrats leave to the opposition. Another variant is a coalition with the Conservatives. However there is much doubt about such a step. Andrius Kubilius believes that the “Farmers” have to decide – either remain passive or finally take action.

“The “Farmers” themselves have to answer themselves – do they want to continue a vegetative state for three years or does at least a part of them desire greater change. In such a case the group which desires change has to define itself and seek to decisively change the situation. This is a question for the Prime Minister – does he want to be at the head of a government which simply vegetates or does he want to go down in Lithuanian history as an individual, a leader who worked for change. For now the changes are hampered by how the “Farmers” themselves appear, being unable to escape R. Karbauskis’ problems,” the former PM said.

Political scientist Algis Krupavičius was also sceptical of such a scenario because according to him many LVŽS voters are opposed to policies supported by the TS-LKD.

“The likelihood that such a coalition scenario would be supported by voters is very slim. I believe that it could be yet another reason for LVŽS ratings to decline,” the political scientist predicted.

If the “Farmers” form a coalition with the Conservatives, G. Kirkilas points to a different problem – the cabinet would need to be reshuffled, perhaps even the Seimas Speaker and Prime Minister would need to be replaced.

“It is a hardly imaginable situation because there is no doubt the Conservatives will demand to renegotiate regarding the cabinet and other positions in Seimas. I believe that they would at least demand the position of Seimas Speaker, if not Prime Minister. If not the Conservatives, then there is the option of attempting to join with other parties, but that would of course be a very unstable coalition. It would be far weaker than the current one,” G. Kirkilas said.

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