Is the Government standing on the brink of collapse?

Kęstutis Girnius
DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

We might get the impression that the current Government of Social Democrats and Farmer Government stands on the verge of falling apart. Farmer leader Ramūnas Karbauskis on Friday demanded for the Social Democrats to support all the proposed restrictions on the sale of alcohol. Otherwise questions about the fate of the coalition will arise.

Other Farmers, Povilas Urbšys as well, say that the question of the sustainability and stability of the coalition might be considered this week. Earlier there were doubts on the future of the coalition. Parliament is considering whether to limit terms of office of the municipal companies directors, there were arguments that Social Democrats are working together with the Conservative opposition.

Social Democrats have stated countless times that they don’t intend to accept a ban to sell alcohol outside of outdoor cafes and oppose the proposal to allow to sell alcohol only from 20 years. New Social Democrat leader Gintautas Paluckas can’t back down. He was partially elected because of his promise that Social Democrats will fight for a bigger role in the Government’s decision-making, will no longer continue obedient poodle. If G. Paluckas would back down then his authority and credibility would collapse, he would become a leader just on paper. Also, if Social Democrats want to remain a serious political force and not only a party that can get 8-10 per cent of votes, they have to raise their public profile, show how they’re different from other parties. If they fail to do this, then they’ll remain in the shadow of Farmers.

It will be difficult for R. Karbauskis to back away. He and other health ayatollahs of the party have exaggerated the fight against alcoholism so much that any step back, even if the it will match the views of the Lithuanian population, are considered the betrayal of main principles. And would show that it’s possible to ignore the threats and ultimatums of Farmers. It seems that as Caesar has said, Alea jacta est, the spell has been cast, it was finally decided to clear up the relationship.

Conclusions can’t be rushed. After all the main actors in the play are new in politics, except maybe G. Paluckas. Even though R. Karbauskis was elected to the Parliament for the first time in 1996, in 2000 – 2001 he was the deputy chairman of the Parliament, before last year’s election he was more of an observer not an active participant. The lack of experience and perception is still clear. Last Wednesday he attacked the Conservative leader Gabrielius Landsbergis on Facebook, who is either lying or doesn’t know his group. R. Karbauskis asked, “Is Patriotic Union is a principled and responsible opposition political force, or opportunism still wins and the party begins to publicly oppose their own proposals.”

G. Landsbergis didn’t hold back and said without being careful. He accused R. Karbauskis of manipulating words, the attempt to “continue to deceive the public”, that “he needs to have a little dignity” but the Honourable President of the Committee of Culture the trait is not inherited. “He also stated that it’s very difficult to say what the Farmers think “they might needed to turn to professionals that could explain to them how the ruling think.”

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis also lost his patience. In his Facebook account he tried snap at the Conservatives. “I have told one leader of the opposition that his place according to the voters is on the bench. I have to admit that I was wrong. Apparently, the bench won’t help here. It may be necessary to sit on the “legendary chair of calming down”. G. Landsbergis reacted on Facebook saying that he won’t respond to personal insults.

Politicians often throw accusations and insults. For some – it’s their daily bread. This time, the potential coalition partners went at each other on the eve of potentially fatal decisions. On Wednesday Karbauskis attacked the Conservatives, after two days threatened to terminate the coalition agreement with the Social democrats. He scolded ones and then one others. After throwing out Social Democrats, an agreement with the Conservatives should be completed wither inviting them to the coalition, or asking for they support for the Farmer minority Government. But why publicly argue with them while knowing that it’s difficult to embrace after an argument. R. Karbauskis angry outbreak that was directed at Social Democrats is also difficult to understand. They received anger because they don’t fully support the Farmer war with alcohol sales. If this is the cause to drive them out of the coalition then it’s difficult to understand on what basis the Conservatives would be invited into their place, whose provisions barely differ from the social democrats’? G. Landsbergis could also be more reserved, if his party is seriously thinking about participating in the ruling coalition.

There is suspicion that despite all arguments, disputes and threats, the current coalition will remain and that everything was only a show in politics. It seems that it mimics the 2012 – 2016 Social Democrat, Labour Party, Order coalition – the parties disagree but any difference is overshadowed by the desire to stay in power. It would be unfortunate if such ruling would become the new normal.

R. Karbauskis and S. Skvernelis have to understand that it’s dangerous to create a coalition with Conservatives. Even if the Conservatives didn’t completely swallow the Farmers, they really won’t settle for four Ministers (of which three have been appointed by the President), or the Government of technocrats. There would be a need to reallocate the leaders of the commissions at the expense of Farmers. This would increase the discontent of the Farmers, encourage them to seek refuge in another party, especially the Conservative. Maybe even the record holder of running away, Egidijus Vareikis, will try to get on the good side of the Conservatives. The Farmers could seek to rule as a minority coalition, maybe invite the Polish election campaign and “Order and Justice” into the coalition. Both options would be a last resort but the situation of Farmers isn’t desperate. I guess, although I’m not quite sure that we won’t see dramatic changes in the near future.

Another thing. Lithuanian politicians are becoming addicted to Facebook, as US President Donald Trump is addicted to Twitter. D. Trump nearly every day shoots himself in the foot but Lithuanian politicians are much behind him while rushing to publish their latest discontent. This could indicate that the modern politician understands social media, seeks and is able to communicate with young people. This might be true but why talk nonsense publicly? Silence is often the best option.

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