A number of Lithuanian ministries have been marred in corruption scandals in the run-up to the general elections this year. Both the so-called army utensils scandal at the Ministry of National Defence as well the scandalous hunting party that has rattled the minister of agriculture have reflected poorly on the prime minister and his cabinet.
Nor would the president, who has never made secret of her dislike of the current government, miss the opportunity to play it up. Public relations expert Mykolas Katkus discussed the implications of such inter-institutional friction in LRT TV programme “Savaitė”.
Katkus highlights a number of topics to keep in mind, starting with the matter of the long-standing antipathy between President Dalia Grybauskaitė and the cabinet led by Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius.
“It is clear that each scandal like this only reaffirms people’s motivations to vote for anyone who is not currently in the coalition government, be it the Conservatives, be it the Peasant-Greens or even the Liberal Movement. Anything, as long as it is not the current government.
“There can be no doubt that, currently, the president, who has never been fond of the current coalition, has joined open opposition to it and it is clear that she is using these scandals as a way to stress that, in her opinion, the current ruling coalition is not the best pick in the oncoming elections.”
He notes that the army utensils procurement scandal at the Ministry of National Defence is more complex than other recent controversies, pointing to the dubious timing of the matter exploding into the open.
While the contract, in which the Lithuanian Army purchased kitchen supplies paying eight times their market value, has been under investigation for two and a half years, a press release from the Public Procurement Service sounded like a tabloid piece and put the defence minister on the defensive, even if it was the Ministry that initially spotted and reported the suspicious contract.
In his final remarks, Katkus entreated for unity and less politicking as, according to him, international relations and foreign policy have never been as important to Lithuania as they are now. “This year, we are part of international politics and only by remaining unified can we safeguard our ship in this stormy sea.”