Having left it to its branches to decide regarding participation in the ruling coalition, the Social Democrats have opened up the way to broader party democracy, but the question arises whether the party can handle it.
Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science (VU TSPMI) professor Raimundas Lopata concluded that the Social Democrats, in the middle of deciding on continued participation in the coalition government, are in a major crisis, the solutions to which are open ended.
“I believe that anything is possible here. No-one doubts that the Social Democrats are in a deep crisis, both ideologically and in terms of party management. It is hard to tell how they will solve this collision, there are numerous potential outcomes,” R. Lopata said.
According to him, the search of a renewed identity would potentially be more achievable in the opposition.
“On the other hand, political struggles are struggles for authority. Considering to leave power, political logics would seemingly oppose such a step. It is hard to tell whether the so called party democracy can help in this case,” R. Lopata said.
The TSPMI professor was uninclined to guess what the most practical solution to the current situation would be. According to him, this requires at least knowing how most of the party’s branches vote.
“It would appear that a crisis mood is palpable in the party. On the other hand along with this crisis, there is a feeling of crisis in new political leadership. One has to admit that the Social Democrats were unable to prepare for the shift in leadership,” R. Lopata said.
According to the political scientist, the act of consulting the party branches over the party’s future by Social Democrat chairman Gintautas Paluckas is consistent.
“G. Paluckas is sufficiently logical in his actions because during his campaign the chairman accented the importance of the branches and their opinion, increased democracy within the party. In this regard he is acting consistently. The question is whether such a line actually provides prospects for the party, such as it is,” R. Lopata said.
The branches’ voice first
According to Lithuanian Social Democrat Party (LSDP) press representative Eglė Samoškaitė, based on the party statute, decisions over forming coalitions with other parties and political organisations are made by the party council. This imperative is established by section 42.7 of the statute.
The council is made up of the party chairman, 196 branch representatives, 10 presidium members, 17 group members, 2 members of the European Parliament, 4 signatories of the March 11 Act of Independence and 5 representatives of the Lithuanian Social Democrat Youth Union. Thus in essence it is the branch representatives who have the greatest weight in the council, the party representative explained.
The LSDP has delegated three ministers to the current cabinet – Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius, Minister of Economy Mindaugas Sinkevičius and Minister of Justice Milda Vainiutė. Even if these ministers had to be replaced, the cabinet would not collapse. According to the cabinet operation law, the cabinet has to have its authority renewed following the replacement of more than half of its ministers, including those who resigned or were dismissed, also ministers for new ministries or ones that are being reorganised. Otherwise the entire cabinet must resign.
The appointment and confirmation of ministerial posts is outlined in the Constitution, but the party documents, E. Samoškaitė explains, does not discuss the behaviour of ministers. However they are delegated by political parties, thus as per the alphabet of democratic societies, ministers usually consider their party’s opinion in their work, if they associate their future with a specific political power, the press representative noted.
Could impact future political careers
“If a party member (a minister does not have to be a member of a party) does not adhere to the official rulings of the council, in such a case there is a tangible basis for ruling on them in the Commission of Ethics and Procedures. Based on the statute, “for not adhering to the LSDP programme or statute, or behaviours that tarnish the party’s name, the member of the party can be penalised as following: a warning, a reprimand, removal from the LSDP,” E. Samoškaitė stated.
According to her, the decision over a warning or reprimand is made by the Commission of Ethics and Procedures, but this can be appealed to the party council. Removal from the party is an extreme and is a point that is reached extremely rarely because usually the basis is of mutual understanding, E. Samoškaitė explained.
A reprimand, she points out, means that the individual cannot be a party candidate in the national or municipal elections, it also denies election to various party organs, while a warning does not bear any practical consequences.
Group members free to decide
According to the party representative, the party statute outlines that the council “outlines and organises the party’s activities between congresses, discusses and directs the party group’s work in Seimas, assists members of the Lithuanian Republic’s Seimas supported by the party, takes in reports from LSDP members belonging to the Seimas group and the European Parliament”.
“Furthermore the statute outlines that the LSDP presidium “analyses the LSDP Seimas group’s work and provides recommendations and proposals for political decisions”. However in voting on proposals in Seimas, group members are independent because the Constitution specifies the mandate of a member of Seimas is free,” E. Samoškaitė explained.
The Social Democrat group in Seimas has 19 members, the Farmer Greens have 56.