“It seems to me, what Saulius Skvernelis is doing right now is testing the limits. He is trying to track hi support. He sees that Ramūnas Karbauskis is in a sense politically bleeding out”- delfi.lt Group Editor-in-Chief Monika Garbačiauskaitė-Budrienė talks about the change of political influence in „farmers“ talks. Is Farmers and Greens political group at risk of fracturing? If so, what consequences this may cause? About this on the show “In the Centre of attention“ M. Garbačiauskaitė-Budrienė, talked with Editor-in-Chief of LRT.LT Vladimiras Laučius and public relations specialist Mykolas Katkus.
– Did the fracture happen de facto is still a question, when it will be official?
M. Garbačiauskaitė-Budrienė: I think it is too early to talk about a fracture. Yes, we see the friction and talk about it since the election. Even before the election there were such talks, but I think it is too early to talk of this. Although in terms of how they communicate – both the government and the “farmers” group, the signs are not good.
V. Laučius: If the fracture is beneficial to S. Skvernelis right now- it could happen.
– It would be helpful for him if in the case of fracture, more members of a group would go in his favour. Now he could probably expect twenty-something people.
V. Laučius: The question is whether in the future he could expect a lot more. Perhaps even minority government scenario would be useful, because then he could say what hinders the processes instead of hardly doing anything.
– You think that one of objectives could be to do nothing?
V. Laučius: It‘s an option. And who wants to do something serious? Nobody wants to work. Another thing is that if we get some people from the “Order and Justice” group or polish, and then the together with the opposition Liberals and Conservatives create a new coalition. But for me, this scenario seems less likely.
– Mr. Katlus, how do you evaluate “farmers”, especially the leaders, public speeches? The key is probably the recent speech by Povilas Urbšys who was the first to clearly say that he has major complaints to S. Skvernelis and that the situation is not good.
I think that we cannot judge from public speeches. All our solutions are based on assumptions and some kind of internal logic. Perhaps if we were to ask themselves, what is the situation, they would not be able to answer. I think that we are now seeing what was being said from the elections: the group is very heterogeneous, composed of totally different people with different perceptions about how Lithuania needs to be managed.
S. Skvernelis not only managed to keep the post-election ratings, but raise them by communicating sufficiently. It is important to him – he feels stronger and more important. Another thing, he believes that has a great public support for the planned reforms, and therefore believes that the parliament has to obey him.
On the other hand, R. Karbauskis had an incredibly bad start as the majority leader of the Parliament. His whole campaign was poorly thought out, so he lost a large part of his political capital. I think that S. Skvernelis is feeling the weight of the changed political capital and is trying to implement and strengthen his own. Will the group fracture or not, it probably depends on how the group’s member’s themselves will evaluate the changed political influence.
– Is R. Karbauskis ready to come down and take the role of the weak?
M. Garbačiauskaitė-Budrienė: It seems to me now that S. Skvernelis is testing the limits. He is trying to track his has support. He sees that R. Karbauskis is in a sense politically bleeding. And do not forget the thing that S. Skvernelis is not even a member of the party, as, by the way, most of the people in that fraction. So as to control and predict their actions there is almost no leverage..
Another thing, when the Government was formed, Minister of Education and Science was acceptable to R. Karbauskis, but now we see that the Minister of Family support is not. How do they plan to work? No matter how seemingly modern is the Prime Minister, he can’t force his reforms on the Parliament. Nothing will happen.
– History shows that all political entities, which had two leaders of similar “weight”, finally split. Whether it be a coalition, with A. Paulauskas and R. Paksas, or V. Landsbergis and G. Vagnorius. In this case, too, the situation is probably programmed?
V. Laučius: The difference is that R. Paksas and A. Paulauskas in 2001 not only had its own group, but also the parties. Meanwhile, S. Skvernelis does not nor or will have. So far, it is used by a lot of services of other parties. What he will do now search for a third, if the conflict continues? He may have a group, but not a party.
– Currently. But then he can successfully create a political organization?
V. Laučius: We know how well those new organizations do with a not so new leader. The question of what the rating would be if he seeks power with a third party. The other thing we are now discussing about a scenario where S. Skvernelis decides to retreat and took a part of the group members with him. However, there may be another option: that R. Karbauskis will take the initiative to withdraw his support of S. Skvernelis Government. And then what would the current Prime Minister do? He would appear in a weaker position and his freedom of manoeuvre would be limited.
– But this is more a theoretical possibility, since politicians wouldn’t dare to remove a more popular Prime Minister, because it would be a political suicide for the party, is not it?
V. Laučius: I am noticing that in the first year MPs think more about principles and ideology, and in the second half of the office they begin to think about ways to be reassembled again. On the other hand, I think that people in the group understand that R. Karbauskis ratings have never been as high as S. Skvernelis. Therefore with the approaching elections other group members will decide who to support, depending on the time of future leaders in the rating. We are still talking about hypothetical situations. But here it basically is the struggle of ambitions and values. If they manage to reach an agreement that supports the fight with alcohol, and then receives support on forest enterprises, or education reform – perhaps they will survive this difficult period.
I suggest not to get attached to the ratings. A very important thing is the voters’ expectations. This is one of the key factors. Also, the “farmers” expectations were basically leftist expectations. The leftist provisions represent precisely R. Karbauskis. S. Skvernelio policy is basically a liberal one and not really left. So voters can remain disappointed by the current Government actions and turn to R. Karbauskis.
– Yes, most people voted for a generous state, new promises, new faces, etc. But now gets an “effectively managed, optimized” state. This was basically always right wing policy. Maybe that explains the frequent meetings of Prime Minister and Gabrielius Landsbergis, Mrs. Garbačiauskaitė? Maybe it’s to tease R. Karbauskis?
There is a very “Lithuanian” word – “trolling”. It is a kind of warning of what could be if the Parliament colleagues will not support the main Prime Minister’s reforms. In addition, the Conservatives are really active. A lot of them are much more active than the coalition partners the Social Democrats, they “spawn”, they do, they offer. I think it is natural that they are trying to drive a wedge in the largest political group. This was their intention from the beginning by not joining the coalition. On the other hand, the “farmers” leaders should agree among themselves and have a united position, rather than constantly blaming the media for some kind of attack. When one “leaves” with a proposal to sign an agreement on emigration, and the other says that no agreement is needed – let’s all work together, all just doing the job, it looks very unsteady.
– P. Urbšys said very clearly that the Prime Minister talks less with the leader of the political group than with G. Landsbergis.
M. Katkus: the communication of R. Karbauskio and S. Skvernelio can be assessed separately, at the same time – it is impossible, because they is none. So far S. Skvernelis and R. Karbauskis seem like individual party leaders.