The Liberal Movement is far better off staying in the opposition and entering conflict with the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (LVŽS). However if they partner with the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD), the Liberals will inevitably also clash with the Conservatives conclude analysts spoke to be LRT.lt.
With coalition negotiations beginning, the Conservatives have stated that they want to work with the Liberal Movement in the coalition. The Liberals’ position is clear – thanks, but no thanks.
“It is very flattering that our colleagues, the Conservatives, believe that only we, the Liberals, can protect them from the dangerous contagions expected in a coalition with the “Peasants.” However I would like to clearly and unequivocally say – economic socialism and restrictions of personal freedom are not suited for Lithuania. Thus we will remain faithful to our voters and will oppose such ideas, whoever propose them. We will not participate in any coalition which is based on such ideas,” stressed Liberal Movement Chairman Remigijus Šimašius.
How could Conservative and Liberal competition in the right end? With both parties left in the opposition or with TS-LKD partnering with the LVŽS to form a coalition?
Liberals feel deceived by the Conservatives?
The Liberal Movement earned 14 mandates in the election, the TS-LKD earned 31. According to Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science (VU TSPMI) docent Kęstutis Girnius, the 45 mandate (summing the two parties’ mandates) “elephant” is feared even by “Peasant” leader Ramūnas Karbauskis which is why the Liberals are not being invited.
“If TS-LKD and the Liberal Movement enter the coalition together, the ratio would be 56 to 45. The rightists are more experienced and disciplined, have the skillset of working in the parliament. They would definitely digest the “Peasants.” I am sure that they will not invite this “elephant” into a coalition. The Conservatives are showing goodwill to the Liberal Movement, offering to improve their situation. On the other hand they are inviting because they know that this proposal will not suit the “Peasants”,” muses K. Girnius
According to an analyst for the Lietuvos Žinios newspaper, Jurga Tvaskienė, after the first round of Seimas elections, the Liberals were most likely not expecting such fortune in the single mandate districts in the second round, so they were inclined to negotiate with the Conservatives.
“This can be observed through Eugenijus Gentvilas and R. Šimašius’ statements after the first round. There was a promise of creating a negotiation group and talk about a common bloc, which could be used in a negotiation on forming a coalition government. However according to what I know, while the Liberals did create such a group, the Conservatives did not respond to it and negotiations did not kick off. Perhaps the Conservatives imagined that the second round would be equally successful as the first. In such a case the Liberals would have been left as the younger brother, to whom it would be possible to dictate conditions.
Now it’s the opposite, the Conservatives earned fewer than expected votes, while the Liberal Movement took far more than they expected. The Liberals likely realised that being the younger brother and serving the Conservatives is absolutely not favourable for them,” J. Tvaskienė told LRT.lt.
The analyst believes that the Liberals feel they can get stronger and be reborn and the Conservatives cannot come to terms with it or do not fully realise it and are attempting to manipulate the Liberals. “It appears to me that if the Conservatives stick to such positions, the long standing friendship with the Liberal Movement can end in a major divorce,” warns Tvaskienė.
TSPMI docent Girnius also notes that the Liberals have escaped the shadow of Eligijus Masiulis’ scandal.
“I have to stress that they earned more votes than in any earlier election. Last time they won 3 seats in the single mandate districts, this time it is up to 6. This is a step forward because earlier they had a limited list of stars. Now they have recovered and have become serious competitors. The question is whether it is useful for the Conservatives to invite them into a coalition. If you play Realpolitik and think that in the future they could become serious competitors, then in some regards it is useful for the Conservatvies to sideline the Liberals and not invite them into the coalition. The Liberals survived E. Masiulis’ scandal. They tossed Antanas Guoga aside for no reason, but clearly are in demand among younger voters, though there is a risk, that this is a niche party after all, which only really concerns itself with the wealthy,” summarised Girnius.
“14 orphans in the opposition desert”
Public relations expert Arijus Katauskas asks another question – who needs who more? The Conservatives need the Liberals or vice versa?
“R. Šimašius tried to tell the Conservatives – why are you concerned about us? The Liberals stated a very clear position and their voters will not be angered if they decide to remain in the opposition. It is understandable that their strategy is being reorganised and directed to 2020, strengthening their party and knowing their capacities. The Liberals are more necessary for the Conservatives now for the vote count and the Liberals only mentioned after the first round that they would negotiate regarding a coalition together with TS-LKD, something that was not escalated later.
The two parties will find opportunities to interact, except if TS-LKD joins a coalition with LVŽS. The Liberal Movement could be one of the most opposed regarding alcohol and other things, so a conflict is very possible, if one is in the coalition and one is in the opposition. The Liberal Movement needs exposure in defending the values they champion. A conflict with LVŽS is a good thing for them. If TS-LKD partners with the “Peasants”, it could give rise to a Liberal – Conservative conflict. The Liberal withdrawal was visible already during the debates prior to the first round of elections, when E. Gentvilas had sharp criticisms to G. Landsbergis regarding the Labour Code,” summarises Katauskas.
Political analyst J. Tvaskienė states that in terms of ideology, the Conservatives and the Liberals should not be partners, but fairly strong rivals.
“Their positions should differ clearly. The situation in Lithuania is somewhat different, they even cooperated for a long time. Prior to Masiulis’ scandal, the Conservatives clearly saw that the Liberal Movement is gaining strength and is a threat during the elections. As such E. Masiulis’ scandal was a godsend to the Conservatives. It helped them and they felt emboldened. Furthermore the Conservatives didn’t even manage to come to agreement on not competing in at least single-mandate districts during the Seimas election because the Conservatives probably thought that the Liberals will be easy pickings after the scandal,” Tvaskienė told LRT.lt.
Meanwhile TSPMI docent Girnius believes the Liberals would benefit from working in the coalition.
“If the Conservatives enter the majority with the “Peasants,” the Liberals would be left as the rightist opposition – 14 orphans in the opposition desert. If they enter the coalition, they would get a ministry or two, a few committee chairman or deputy chairman seats and would also gain a tribune to express their opinions better. If they remain in the opposition it will be significantly harder,” K. Girnius assures.