Political parties’ chairmanships crisis – who is next?

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Mindaugas Jackevičius, Eglė Samoškaitė ir Algirdas Butkevičius
DELFI montažas

The Seimas elections have highlighted the chairmanship problems present among Lithuanian political parties. After election results came out, Social Democrat leader and former PM Algirdas Butkevičius said that he would resign from the post of party chairman, but with party members objecting, the idea was at least temporarily abandoned, TV3.lt reported.

The party chairman elections are slated for March. The candidates and the leader expected to represent the Social Democrats in the coalition is still unclear.

The situation in the Conservative camp is similar, where due to Seimas election results early elections were called. 5 candidates were approved by the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrat presidium yesterday, they will all vie for the post of party chairman on March 11-12. The candidates are incumbent Chairman Gabrielius Landsbergis, Paulius Saudargas, Agnė Bilotaitė, Mykolas Majauskas and Žygimantas Pavilionis.

Internal competition is normal?

Conservative member Laurynas Kasčiūnas says that he observes no clear trend in party chairman problems. He notes that the large Conservative party benefits from competition. “You know, every party has its own history, I would not call it a trend here. Our party has always had free and democratic elections, every party member has the right to vote. Naturally, our party is more branched, there are various perspectives. Each has its own leaders, its own people and its own representatives. Everything is fine with us, it is competition,” said Kasčiūnas.

“We have normal competition, differing visions among party members. I believe that a vision for Lithuania will be proposed because we see not only our strengths, but also our weaknesses. It is a fact that we are popular in Vilnius, but less so in the regions. Thus I think that all the candidates should answer the question of how to become a political party for all of Lithuania,” the politician posed the core question.

Kasčiūnas also expressed hope that the competition for the post of party chairman will not be a struggle between personalities, but will purify the necessary discussion. “I believe it will be an interesting month. I just hope that it does not result in some sort of struggle between personalities, but a competition of ideas. That there would be less personal and more conceptual discussion,” said the conservative.

Social Democrat decline

The conservative has a somewhat different view of the Social Democrat party, observing the loss of political face and image.

“The Social Democrats need to resolve the vacuum of leadership, it is vanishing from the political map because the “Peasants” have eclipsed them completely. It does not have its own face, carries no flag, let us put it that way. If this continues, they could contract to a small niche party. Thus they need to decide now, whether they will open a new page and let someone new lead or a politician from the European Parliament who may be more experienced and could even have latent popularity,” he explained.

Conservative leader to stay the same?

Vytautas Magnus University political scientist Ingrida Unikaitė-Jakuntavičienė says that the problems faced regarding party leadership are not unexpected – it is internal dissatisfaction regarding election results. “From the look of these processes, it is visible that in some parties the question naturally arises considering election results. It is natural where they have lost or failed to reach goals they set. It is natural that the Social Democrat party, despite participating in the coalition and governing the state, but failing to reach results expected by itself and a part of its membership has such thoughts about re-electing its chairman,” said the political scientist.

The Conservatives’ fates appear to remain the same to the expert. “If we look at the Conservative party, then the matter was also obvious, that a chairmanship question could arise after the elections. When positions regarding various questions split and unwillingness to adhere to the leader’s position arose. Once again it is natural. Thusly we now have the situation where all political parties want to check if certain leaders are still necessary. Whether they are looking for an identity or a direction – more unification or finding a more clear-cut fraction, differing party directions or clear values. The Christian wing or the more liberal Conservative wing differentiate more clearly,” said Unikaitė-Jakuntavičienė.

The political scientist says that the Conservative candidates have elected to represent differing positions, but she does not believe that the chairman will change. “In the Social Democrat party I see the potential that someone else will be found for the post. As for the Conservatives, it is hard to say anything clearly, the forces struggling there are proportional, but a sort of fragmentation is seen through all the candidates. Say on one hand there are more potential Christian wing candidates. But to me it appears unlikely the Conservatives will elect a new leader,” she noted.

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