To hunt for votes in the Conservatives’ forest against their leadership and without the knowledge and permit of that leadership? Why not? These are the tactics employed by the Presidential Palace in combatting the main coalition power, Vytautas Bruveris writes in lrytas.lt.
Chasing not only opposition Seimas groups but also individual members of Seimas behind the scenes, bending them to one’s side and thus hoping to assemble parliamentary support – this is one of the main means employed by President Gitanas Nausėda to increase his political influence and win in confrontations with the ruling bloc.
G. Nausėda’s subordinates do not shirk this sort of a hunt even when in the ruling bloc’s domain – even under the Conservatives leadership’s nose. However, it, of course, immediately finds out and this is ramping up tensions between the right-wing and the head of state.
The president goes all in
There will likely be more clashes than usual between the president and the ruling bloc during the Seimas spring session, which started this week. After all, tensions between these two top state institutions have lately been increasing not by days but by hours.
One of the most recent clashes is over tax policy. The ruling Conservatives, the Ministry of Finance they manage and Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė herself have declared that they will look to fundamentally review the country’s entire tax system and have already introduced guidelines for this review. One of the key principles is to abolish various exemptions, which the ruling bloc believes are unjust.
At the same time, the ruling bloc promises to implement the reform no earlier than in a couple of years and host broad discussions on it up to then.
With such declarations being voiced, G. Nausėda, who also sought to compete in various tax proposals with the previous “Farmer” coalition, stirred this time as well – going ahead to declare that he is proposing several tax amendments.
For one, G. Nausėda proposed greater taxation on those who receive most of the income from certificates of individual activity. Also – to prohibit tax changes alongside passing a new budget.
But the initiative most advertised by the Presidential Palace was profit tax concessions and exemptions for companies, which increase their wage payment fund by no less than 8% compared to the past year.
Targets complain to the leadership
These initiatives by G. Nausėda were immediately criticised and rejected by the Conservatives’ leadership. Prime Minister I. Šimonytė declared that at least this year, such things are definitely “unneeded.” Meanwhile, Seimas Committee on Budget and Finance chairman Mykolas Majauskas of the Conservatives declared that he is firmly against only a profit tax concession.
In turn, the president decided to pick up the pace even further – while initially saying that these proposals will only be presented to a special workgroup operating out of the Ministry of Finance, he went ahead and had the tax concession proposal presented to the Seimas alongside other proposals of his to the Seimas spring session.
What is more, it was found that the Presidential Palace promptly began to hunt for votes in its favour even among the Conservatives themselves. The president’s advisors began inviting individual members of parliament for private conversations, even MPs who do not directly deal with economic and finance policy.
This was brought up in one of the sittings for the largest Seimas group when the MPs who were invited by the Presidential Palace complained about it to the group’s leadership. In turn, it denounced the Presidential Palace’s actions.
The group and party leadership’s representatives have unofficially told Lietuvos Rytas that this way, the head of state is seemingly trying to blindside them instead of coming to discuss it with the group, Seimas or respective committee leaderships.
Looking to entice even critics
One of the Seimas group members in question, for example, was Kęstutis Masiulis, who was invited by the president’s advisors to discuss a number of the president’s proposals to Seimas – including taxation.
The member of Seimas told Lietuvos Rytas that he found it odd and unacceptable already that he was invited by the president’s advisors, who simply sent the time for a potential meeting to his assistants. Furthermore, according to K. Masiulis, it appeared “odd” to him that he was called to discuss questions, which he does not directly engage with as a member of Seimas.
“Thirdly, if the Presidential Palace took more interest in my activities before, it would have seen that in cases where tax policy is brought up, out of principle, I always stand against various concessions. But the president’s proposals are just that,” the MP noted.
According to Lietuvos Rytas’ sources, other than K. Masiulis, a range of other members of the group have been approached, including one of the Presidential Palace’s main critics over attending the European Council Matas Maldeikis. Also – Vilija Aleknaitė Abramikienė and Paulė Kuzmickienė.
Representatives of the group’s leadership told Lietuvos Rytas that so far, there is no established decision within the group on the president’s proposals. The heads of the other ruling coalition groups said the same. For example, Liberal Movement group prefect Eugenijus Gentvilas explained that the Presidential Palace presented its proposals to the entire group and its leadership, which is taking into account that Prime Minister I. Šimonytė has been critical of these proposals.