What authority remains: do the “Farmers” still obey Karbauskis?

Seimas
DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

Farmer leader Ramūnas Karbauskis has for a long time been perceived as a politician with a firm hand, whose orders are obeyed without question by his Seimas group members. However, the drama over dismissing Seimas Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis, which has been dubbed a political circus or fiasco by some analysts, as well as the bogged down budget deliberations in Seimas raise questions of whether R. Karbauskis is still in control of the previously blindly following “Farmers” and the entire ruling coalition, Vilmantas Venckūnas wrote in TV3.lt.

63 members of Seimas voted in favour of dismissing V. Pranckietis from the office of Seimas speaker, with 5 voting against and 11 ballots being spoiled. The dismissal would only go through with no less than 71 votes in favour. The secret ballot featured 79 members of parliament voting, with the opposition choosing to ignore the vote.

Arrogant assuredness

Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science (VU TSPMI) docent, political scientist Kęstutis Girnius told the tv3.lt portal that R. Karbauskis’ leadership is currently hard to see.

“He is confused, has made massive mistakes and it does not appear that he is prepared to comprehend matters and look at his own leadership abilities more openly,” the docent spoke.

K. Girnius believes that the vote on dismissing V. Pranckietis was a major fiasco for R. Karbauskis and a large number of MPs, rather than supporting the speaker, were inclined against the “Farmer” leader.

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“When he himself is unable to gauge the moods of his colleagues, naively and arrogantly believes that he is doing everything correctly, this means that he has a fundamental weakness. Karbauskis is unable to comprehend what is happening in his nearest circle. He does not understand what is happening and is content with what he imagines,” the political scientist said.

Mykolas Romeris University docent, political scientist Vytautas Dumbliauskas believes that R. Karbauskis controls most of his Seimas group. 63 MPs voted in favour of dismissing V. Pranckietis in the secret ballot and the “Farmer” group contains 50 members, thus V. Dumbliauskas believes that most “Farmers” supported R. Karbauskis.

“If R. Karbauskis can cope with most of the group, then it would seem that the ruling coalition does not have a majority. And this is a problem. Perhaps there is a majority on some questions, but then there’s the question of where it won’t exist,” V. Dumbliauskas noted.

A matter for all of Seimas

R. Karbauskis and the entire ruling coalition will need a majority to approve the state budget. Last week, after a ruling coalition council meeting, R. Karbauskis assured journalists that there should be no issues with approving the budget.

“We have a majority, I can confidently say so today. You will see a very clear majority in the budget approval,” he spoke back then.

According to V. Dumbliauskas, the state budget is a crucial matter for not only R. Karbauskis or the ruling coalition, but also for the opposition.

“Politics is the art of compromise, there has to be some compromise, which would work for both the opposition and the coalition. The budget is all our money, it is needed to maintain the police and the schools, and the hospitals. In this, I believe we need to have more state-level thinking. We shouldn’t think about Karbauskis. I believe that it is all of the Seimas’ duty to approve the budget,” the MRU docent asserted.

K. Girnius believes that while R. Karbauskis is unable to control a number of “Farmer” group members or ruling coalition members, with them being discontent with his methods of governance, these politicians might vote in favour of the budget.

“They would vote not because Karbauskis supports it, but because they believe it is the right move or it benefits them personally. In other words, they might vote together with Karbauskis even if they may dislike him,” the political scientist said.

Nobody to replace Karbauskis?

Opposition leader Julius Sabatauskas of the Social Democrats told journalists in Seimas after the vote to dismiss V. Pranckietis that R. Karbauskis has lost control of his party and should resign.

“It would be a logical step by Karbauskis to end this agony and resign from the office of party chairman. […] He is no longer in control of his Seimas group and party as well,” J. Sabatauskas stated.

V. Dumbliauskas believes that J. Sabatauskas’ declaration is somewhat inappropriate because the opposition leader is not a member of the “Farmers”.

“Telling Karbauskis, what he should do… He was somewhat exaggerating,” the academic noted.

K. Girnius muses that while R. Karbauskis resigning would be a rather logical step, the “Farmer” ranks lack politicians, who could replace the long-time party chairman.

“To an extent, Karbauskis is the party’s creator. He is the one, who rallied the party, together with Skvernelis took it to its electoral success. If Karbauskis wants it himself, let him resign. But I do not see how the party could or would want him to resign,” the VU TSPMI docent stated.

During the Seimas term, there have been talks numerous times how politicians discontent with the “Farmer” leader may break away and create a new political entity. To V. Dumbliauskas’ knowledge, this idea was also considered by Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, who would have been joined by Vytautas Bakas, who has left the “Farmer” group.

(Im)possible “Farmer” breakup

“If not for the illness, it would appear that Skvernelis would have founded a party. There would definitely be a number of people, who would follow after Skvernelis because he is a more popular leader, while Karbauskis is not all that popular as a politician in the first place. If I were in the “Farmer” group, I would ponder, who to go with to the 2020 elections – Skvernelis or Karbauskis,” V. Dumbliauskas stated.

Another leader, who could draw in a number of “Farmers” is V. Pranckietis. The Seimas speaker withdrew from the Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union and following his conflict with R. Karbauskis should stand apart during next year’s elections. V. Dumbliauskas sees V. Pranckietis as the face of a potential new political power.

“Pranckietis displayed resolve and character. The “Farmers” need to think well, perhaps they could follow Pranckietis into the elections,” the political scientist mused.

K. Girnius is sceptical of any potential “Farmer” rebellion.

“I currently imagine that the [“Farmer”] party will unlikely gather much more than 10% [of the vote]. If it went even further and split into smaller parties, it would likely weaken even further. Pranckietis could win in his single-mandate district, but I have doubts about whether he could gather five or six friends and obtain the 5% needed,” K. Girnius observed.

The tv3.lt portal has written about how while the repeat vote on V. Pranckietis’ dismissal failed, experts emphasise that this story is definitely not over. According to commentators, “Farmer” leader R. Karbauskis could take up new measures in order to unseat current Seimas speaker from his office and the friction between the two figures will continue to rise.

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