Seeking to terminate the coalition agreement – Paluckas falls into a trap set for Butkevičius

Gintautas Paluckas, Algirdas Butkevičius
DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

Having spoken up about plans to renegotiate the agreement with the “Farmers” in autumn, Lithuanian Social Democrat leader Gintautas Paluckas continues to raise tensions. “We are moving from words to deliberations on procedures to terminate the coalition,” he said on Žinių Radijas on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday G. Paluckas spoke about how the Social Democrats may seek to review the coalition agreement in autumn because the currently formed cabinet is operating under minority conditions, employing the aid of opposition representatives. This happened after the Social Democrats expressed a separate position when the “Farmers” and their delegated Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis employed the aid of the opposition Conservatives for their forestry reform.

When asked on Žinių Radijas on Wednesday, if the Social Democrats voted whether to remain in the coalition or leave, what position he would vote for, Paluckas answered that “Already prior to the formation of the coalition, I had numerous doubts. I personally would vote to leave the coalition.”

He also claimed that there are moves from talking about problems to tangible solutions. “We are moving from words to deliberating on the procedure of terminating the coalition. On Thursday the party presidium will deliberate how we fared, how we fare in the coalition and what actions to take. Intuitively I feel that the presidium will appeal to the party council to review because the council is the organ which makes decisions over the coalition – to form it, terminate it and such,” the Social Democrat chairman said.

Nevertheless G. Paluckas assured that the Social Democrats will not “run into the nettles naked” and will make a responsible choice. “There are real alternatives – either terminate the coalition or renegotiate and work as we have so far. However for most of the party working as so far is not acceptable,” he said.

Unwilling to rush, would review the agreement

Seimas Social Democrat group prefect Andrius Palionis told Delfi that the party he represents is not discussing terminating the coalition agreement yet.

“We simply have not discussed the problems enough within the coalition, later the questions would be publically presented,” he stated.

The prefect stated he does not believe that strict talks of splitting up should be done with the “Farmer” partners as of yet. “As of today I definitely do not think so. Especially that no matter if I or G. Paluckas talk, realistically it is approved by the party structures which have the right to make the decisions. In autumn we are planning a council meeting and the party will decide over the coalition,” A. Palionis said.

According to the politician, considering the current situation, one must admit that the half a year old coalition agreement was not breached by their partners because it has four specific questions in it where common ground was not found yet.

“And based on party values it was outlined that failing to find common ground, both the partners – the “Farmers” and us – we can seek support among other groups as well,” he said.

Nevertheless A. Palionis agreed with A. Paluckas regarding the need to review the coalition agreement. “There were talk of this earlier as well, already during the competition for party chairmanship. I would agree with G. Paluckas in this regard, that we need to sit down with our coalition partners and review the agreement,” he said.

Earlier the Social Democrats blamed their then party leader Algirdas Butkevičius for the apparently unfavourable for them and ambiguous coalition agreement. Prior to the signing of the agreement, four members of the Social Democrat negotiation group – Algirdas Sysas, G. Paluckas, Julius Sabatauskas and A. Palionis – released a public statement which stated that certain actions of A. Butkevičius and the then group prefect Irena Šiaulienė were not coordinated with the negotiation group.

Delfi inquired A. Palionis on Wednesday whether the agreement needs to be reviewed because of A. Butkevičius agreeing to conditions that are unfavourable to the Social Democrats, to which he responded “I believe due to that.”

Social Democrats harm themselves

Following the Seimas elections at the end of last year, the coalition agreement between the Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS) and the Lithuanian Social Democrat Party (LSDP) was immediately described as more favourable to the major coalition partner, the “Farmers”, despite A. Butkevičius’ efforts to reassure everything is in order.

Based on the coalition agreement published by Delfi, it can be seen that it does not even establish how many ministries are handed over to what party – it is stated that it will be based on the Seimas election result proportions. The agreement does highlight that the posts of Seimas Speaker and Prime Minister are delegated by the LVŽS.

The partners also outline in the agreement that in all questions they will “deliberate based on the principle of goodwill” and in regard to certain questions related to values – writing of names, the constitutional definition of family, legalisation of partnership, the protection of human life from the moment of conception – can be decided on independently.

The coalition’s programme is included as an add-on to the agreement, but in it there is a discussion of programme factors based on the LVŽS programme, not the coalition partners’ relations and interaction principles.

Commenting on this agreement at the start of this year, Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science (VU TSPMI) professor Tomas Janeliūnas said that the Social Democrats have placed themselves in an unfavourable position.

“After reviewing the agreement it appears very formal. What we can expect from the coalition agreement is more politics within it and not just obvious rules such as the proportions for ministry distribution and repetition. Specifically there are very few political precepts and commitments in the agreement,” he noted.

At the time the politician stated that seemingly only point discusses at which points there does not have to be a “coalition consensus”, that is to say where the groups retain their right to have a separate opinion out of line with their partners. However even this point isn’t final – it only outlines several topics which are relevant now. T. Janeliūnas explained that the statement that all questions will be discussed based on the “principle of goodwill” says nothing and is completely hollow.

Evaluating the circumstances of the signing of such an agreement, T. Janeliūnas mused that at the time, following the elections, the Social Democrats were stunned and knowing that the “Farmers” do not have to negotiate with only them, they likely could not raise any major conditions.

“It would appear that the circumstances of the time decided that the agreement essentially has no precepts that defend the Social Democrats and their political significance,” the TSPMI lecturer explained half a year ago.

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