Why can Valdemar Tomaševski do as he likes?

Valdemar Tomaševski
Waldemar Tomaszewski at the May 9 Victory day in Vilnius DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

According to Tomas Janeliūnas, a lecturer at the Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Studies, the stance of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (LLRA) regarding the Ministry of Energy is the last nail in the coffin of the Social Democrats’ patience. This is especially so now that Mr. Tomaševski and company have schemed to propose as the new Minister of Energy the very same Mr. Neverovič who is being fired from this post. In Mr. Janeliūnas’s opinion, it also seems that Polish politicians are taking a more cautious attitude when it comes to the LLRA and its leaders.

He won’t leave the coalition – he wants to be thrown out

The LLRA calls the Social Democrats’ behaviour toward Mr. Neverovič “a violation of European political culture or a lack thereof”. This brings a smile to Mr. Janeliūnas’s face.

“What’s currently ruffling the EAPL’s feathers is something that just doesn’t fit into any normal political framework,” DELFI confirms the Mr. Janeliūnas as saying.

According to him, Mr. Neverovič’s repeated proposal to the ministers means one of two things: either the LLRA does not have a replacement for the Minister of Energy or it is trying to further irritate its coalition partners.

“That shows that on the one hand they don’t have a standby. (…) But on the other hand, they perhaps don’t want to say outright “Thanks, goodbye – we’re withdrawing from the coalition”. They don’t want to be the first ones to say that. Maybe they just want to be thrown out,” argues Mr. Janeliūnas.

A deified party leader

The Social Democrats say openly that it’s Renata Cytacka and not Mr. Neverovič or a notion of Mr. Tomaševki’s, who is the Deputy Minister of Energy. Mr. Janeliūnas says that this just once again shows that the LLRA is an authoritarian party.

There’s no doubt about it. And that’s a trend that’s been around for quite some time. One can imagine that there are some rational people in the party. As we’ve seen, Mr. Neverovič himself has attempted to suggest other candidates as deputy minister. But it would seem that no one else inside the party is able to surpass the party leader’s ambition and arrogance.

That it seems is the way it is. In the party a kind of pyramid has been discretely built. At the top is Mr. Tomaševski. In the party it seems the entire structure is supported by loyalty to the leader and the administration. Everyone understands that without him no post in the party or, as is the case here, any post in the coalition would be possible,” explains Mr. Janeliūnas.

In his opinion, the LLRA leadership hierarchy is so entrenched that “nobody could even imagine the party being governed otherwise”.

“All of the LLRA statements point to the fact that Mr. Tomaševski has been practically deified. His successes and statements during the elections are constantly highlighted. And all other party activities are based on faith in practically one person,” states Mr. Janeliūnas.

Why has Warsaw vanished?

Official Warsaw has at no time declared its support for Mr. Tomaševki or his party. In recent months however, within the context of the Ukrainian crises, the LLRA leader has often hurled statements that are at odds not only with Lithuania’s position but also with Poland’s. And at this point in time Warsaw has vanished and hardly makes a show of the Polish issues in Lithuania.

“It has apparently been realized that it’s somewhat risky relying solely on one person. Nevertheless, I think the same signals are coming out of Lithuania to the effect that the LLRA and Mr. Tomaševski are flirting a bit too much with Russia. In the present geopolitical climate it’s obvious that this is not serving Poland’s interests,” says Mr. Janeliūnas.

In actual fact, Warsaw has no alternatives. In Lithuania there’s simply no other political force that Poland could openly support.

“Nobody sees any other alternative to Mr. Tomaševski. And so, accordingly, nobody wants to criticize or distance themselves from him too much because that would mean distancing themselves from the entire Lithuanian Polish community. (…) The LLRA have overwhelmed and monopolised this area. And even though Warsaw is getting unsavoury signals as to what kind of person Mr. Tomaševski is, it doesn’t seem to have any other choice,” explains Mr. Janeliūnas.

Is the Tomaševski era over?

When asked if a change in the LLRA leadership is plausible, Mr. Janeliūnas stated that it’s first and foremost necessary to know what’s going on inside the party.

“I unfortunately don’t know. And I won’t hazard a guess but it is possible that leadership in the party could change just like that. Anything can happen and maybe it’s completely different to what we think it is. Maybe there’s some sort of internal struggle going on,” says Mr. Janeliūnas.

At any rate, even if there is a power struggle in the LLRA they’re not making it known. “For the time being judging from public decisions and statements, we do see that Mr. Tomaševski is in full control,” notes Mr. Janeliūnas.

Mr. Tomaševski hasn’t commented on his position. The LLRA leader hasn’t communicated with the press since Monday when the crisis around Mr. Neverovič broke. On Wednesday DELFI tried unsuccessfully to contact the head of the LLRA.

Scandal after scandal: from the Ribbon of St George to the “liberation” of Klaipėda

The Ukrainian crisis has consolidated Lithuania’s political forces and has become a positive impetus in relations between Vilnius and Warsaw. In the name of a common cause the neighbouring countries are gradually purging discord and quarrels. Mr. Tomaševski however is the odd ball when it comes to both Lithuania and Poland.

In terms of the crisis in Ukraine, the LLRA leader hasn’t at any stage taken any kind of position or even condemned the annexation of the Crimea.

“Let’s say I clearly don’t like the speed at which this referendum was carried out. A referendum must be organised over at least two months. (…) Yet would the results really have been any different – I doubt it,” Mr. Tomaševski stated at a press conference in March.

Thereafter, on 9 May, the LLRA leader marked Russian-speaker’s Victory Day and paraded through Vilnius wearing the St. George ribbon which in the last six months has become a pro-Russian separatist symbol in Ukraine.

The LLRA leader didn’t even want to take Poland’s side when the country went through a Russian blockade of fruit and vegetables. It seems that the inoffensive action in solidarity with Poland, when people gathered outside the Russian embassy in Vilnius and ate Polish apples, didn’t interest Mr. Tomaševski.

And there are more political manoeuvres of the LLRA leader. There was that January when Mr. Tomaševski travelled to Klaipėda to mark the port city’s “liberation” when on 28 January 1945 the Red Army took control of the city. The State Security Department (SSD) divulged even that the secret police tried to contact Mr. Tomaševski. It seems he was seen as being at “risk of falling under Russian influence”. The leader of the country’s biggest national minority party however didn’t want to talk.

“The SSD warns but does not punish Lithuanian citizens who end up the space of Russian interests because it is not a crime. There are politicians who one way or another have been warned about the risk of falling into the Russian sphere of influence. (…) Unfortunately, I am sad to say, there have been cases where there was an unwillingness to meet intelligence officers for an interview. And quite recently there have even been some unpleasant incidents when Mr. Tomaševski, a politician, a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania and a member of parliament, has refused to speak to SSD officials,” stated SSD head Gediminas Grina in March in the Seimas.

Mr. Tomaševski does not deny that SSD officials met with him but attributes the refusal to speak to shabby work on the part of the security police.

“There’s some kind of misunderstanding. One time, about a week or two ago, someone phoned me but didn’t introduce himself by name. He said he was from the Security Department. I asked him for his name. He said his name was some or other Petrauskas,” DELFI quotes Mr. Tomaševski as saying.

The politician remembers asking the caller why he wants to meet with him. “He said this is not a telephone conversation. I then said is this some kind of joke,” said Mr. Tomaševski.

The LLRA leader made it known to the caller to consult his boss. “I say you must talk to your boss, what’s his name… Grina? Grina. There you go, let Grina phone me. I’ll write to Grina giving him a time when we can meet,” said Mr. Tomaševski relating the conversation.

That’s not the first time that the LLRA leader has crossed paths with the SSD. Last year in October the SSD announced that the LLRA and representatives the Russian Union, who are working closely with the party, visited the offices of the Russian President’s Administration of Interregional and Cultural Links with Countries Abroad. Our representatives haven’t been overseas to any country for two years,” the news agency BNS quotes Mr. Tomaševski.

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