Liberal Movement – dispersal mood? Even R. Šimašius holds doubts

Remigijus Šimašius, Eugenijus Gentvilas
DELFI / Domantas Pipas

The members of the Liberal Movement, which is suspect in a political corruption trial, are at a crossroads: to participate in the nearing municipal elections with the party or establish electoral committees. Not only the branches of smaller municipalities are considering this, but also Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius. Political scientists say that with such processes beginning, the situation in the party could spiral out of control, writes.

Former Liberal Movement chairman, Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius has been urging party branches on social media to try out various recipes, which could bring victory.

“The Liberals have a very large and powerful idea, but not the best times for the structure. It is clear that under financial and structural limiters, as well as overall, a deficit in the people’s trust, the municipal elections must be at the municipal and local level, while the Liberal Movement should concentrate on the European Parliament and the 2020 Seimas elections,” R. Šimašius says.

He himself does not deny that he will not participate in the municipal elections alongside the party, but with a civic electoral committee.

“All the roads, which lead to thriving cities and towns, to a thriving Lithuania and against the push of serfdom politics, all these roads are good. It is natural that people must think because if they do not, they will cease to be Homo Sapiens. <…> If I was not thinking myself, I would not belong to the Homo Sapiens category. Of course all options are being considered,” R. Šimašius says.

Liberal Movement chairman Eugenijus Gentvilas says that the party must participate in the municipal elections united, as for R. Šimašius musings on doing so without the party – that he knew of it earlier, but had not heard up to now, whether the breakaways would cooperate with the party after the elections.

“We will go with a committee and then we will see somehow, what we can do with the party. I agree that we can construct afterward, but perhaps it is more rational to agree, what we are doing in the long-term perspective and create a strategy. So far, I have not heard of such a strategy. In my opinion, such a decision by Remigijus Šimašius would be a mistake,” E. Gentvilas says.

Not only may the capital branch turn into a headache for the Liberals, but also the port town branch, which has already chosen its mayoral candidate. A difference of six votes led to MP Simonas Gentvilas, not incumbent Mayor Vytautas Grubliauskas becoming the candidate. S. Gentvilas describes V. Grubliauskas as a political mentor, but nevertheless named flaws in the city’s leadership.

“Klaipėda is like a compressed spring with its potential, where we need to learn to say “yes” to everything more often, both artistic initiatives and business plans and this needs serious changes in the municipality administration, excellent cooperation with the port and port companies,” S. Gentvilas says.

While S. Gentvilas states that having elected their candidate for Klaipėda mayor the Liberals have become stronger, incumbent V. Grubliauskas does not deny that he may seek re-election even without the party, but with a committee, which may contain a number of the party’s current branch members.

“As a politician, I am considering all options, you can count some five or six of them. You can also calculate which of them it will be and, as you see, I am not making any rushed decisions. <…> I would likely be a worthless politician if I were not considering all my options in any situation. I am naturally considering all options while I am in politics, while I am doing the job,” V. Grubliauskas says.

S. Gentvilas says that the breakaways may struggle in the elections.

“It is no secret among the Liberals that there are talks about committees everywhere. Everyone keeps thinking it is a plan B. There is a formal decision by the board, which stated – in all 60 municipalities, the Liberal Movement will participate as a party. This essentially bars the way if a committee is formed, it will be competing with our own party. The committee will receive neither support, nor funding from the party,” S. Gentvilas says.

Liberal Movement head E. Gentvilas states that there are more branches or members, who see their future without the party. The Utena branch is seeking to participate in the elections as a committee, as is the Varėna branch, also some of the members of the Pagėgiai branch.

Political scientist Rima Urbonaitė says that it is clear that a crisis is continuing in the party and there continue to be no decisions, how to end it.

“If the Liberals wish to remain afloat, they will consider all possible options. Committees grant an opportunity, to somewhat distance oneself from the party and begin fresh. This is because it is truly difficult to attract people to the party as it is right now. But it is a whole other question, whether they will not corner themselves this way because manipulating this way can sometimes go out of control, if the end goal is actually to retain the party, which will be the main core. Those committees, by the way, could even be a fracturing factor. In other terms, the party could disperse,” R. Urbonaitė believes.

According to her, if the Vilnius and Klaipėda mayors choose to enter the municipal elections with committees, it could be a bad sign for the party, which is lacking leaders. And conflicts in the party only deepen its crisis further.

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