Will the Government have enough support in the Seimas for reforms?

Algirdas Butkevičius, Ramūnas Karbauskis, Saulius Skvernelis
DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

The Seimas spring session which begins in early March promises to be fiery. You can close your eyes, point to any topic area and you will find faces distorted in anger. See, in this session there will have to be a fundamental reform of government. Such reforms have not happened for two decades now. The fighting will be fierce.

It is sad, but approximately half of the Farmer and Greens Union members view Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis’ proposed reforms critically, with a third potentially not planning to support the initiatives in voting. The “Farmers” are indignant that ministers and vice ministers do not answer their calls, do not call back and do not wish to hear out their wise council.

Truth be told, the request concert and time for wise council ended on the day when the Seimas approved the government programme and the new Prime Minister and his team pledged to work not for members of Seimas, but the entire country.

It would not be completely accurate to say that the “Farmer” group’s prefect R. Karbauskis is the one to be raising waves the most or simply is allowing the “Farmer” group to rebel against the cabinet because this way he wants to show the ever more popular S. Skvernelis “his place”.

The reduction in alcohol accessibility, reforming the corruption hit state owned companies and education reform should all be too important to R. Karbauskis to be burnt on the bonfire of political intrigue. That said, it was him who halted the postal service reform out of fear.

Nevertheless, the fact is such – S. Skvernelis cannot solely rely on the power of the majority anymore and this leads to him going to Eurovision selection competitions and discussing other questions with the leader of the strong opposition, Gabrielius Landsbergis.

To put it even more bluntly – if voting regarding the forestries was to be done today and the opposition did as it should – voted against, then the Skvernelis cabinet’s proposal would receive support from 25-35 members of Seimas. Such is reality.

Some of the Farmer and Greens Union group members openly speak up against the reduction of the number of forestries, others would agree to some changes, however would want to keep public procurement and taxation in the hands of the regional forestries (their branches). It is the sort of abracadabra where the wolf should be fed, the sheep in good health and the human would have coats sown out of both.

Reality is very simple. There are many “Farmers” who were elected in region single mandate districts. If anyone still finds it unclear, then let me tell you that in many regional municipalities, for a long time matters have been taken care of by the mayor who holds real power, the heads of forestries who organise hunts and gatherings that follow them, as well as influential businessmen. To call out the unfortunate member of Seimas and ask them to vote in a way that nothing would change is not a difficult task for any mayor. Otherwise during the next Seimas election the region’s political government will not support the member of Seimas with government resources, while businesses will withhold funding. Is it within R. Karbauskis’ power to change anything, force different behaviour?

To this we have to add the fact that the Social Democrats, being in the majority, having agreed to shoot their leg and having handed over their fortress of Lietuvos Geležinkeliai will not shoot themselves in the head and hand over the forestries. If they are taken by force, then the SocDems will no longer want to hear anything about state service reform or closing the alcohol tap.

What is S. Skvernelis left with? To speak with G. Landsbergis about the Eurovision preliminaries, Pilvelytė and Lola or whatever her name.

The situation is also interesting in that after initial attacks on G. Landsbergis, when he promised support for S. Skvernelis, later on Liberal Movement leader E. Gentvilas also publically pledged support to Skvernelis in voting on key reform. I have not seen such an opposition for a long time. One has to admit – this shows a great maturity on part of opposition politicians.

The majority has stumbled without having even started seriously working, just after the first talks of starting reforms. And it is specifically pledges on fundamental reform of state governance that won them the election.

The Farmer and Greens group members are cunningly pulled in all directions. This does not necessarily mean that the group has to break apart and scatter. After the serious spring session voting it will perhaps still manage to consolidate its forces, however this situation cannot continue for long – why must the opposition work instead of them for four years?

It has already become clear that state officials who, so far had great privileges, could be made equal to those working based on the Labour Code. Thus it will be easier to fire them and replace with others.

Most know that ministers can be changed practically every day, however ministries are managed and will continue to be managed by chancellors and various department heads in permanent employment there and they can always find reasons to not do something.

A similar bog is prevalent in the municipalities as well. Only the Kaunas mayor managed to break through the situation through great efforts.

When the government officials unite with alcohol magnates, with the heads of forestries and regional mayors, with school directors recommended to rotate out of their post, with teachers dissatisfied with their wages, as well as the supposedly hungry retirees and the postmen about to lose their jobs, when they are supported by the Social Demcorats, who are unwilling to shoot their other leg, the image around and inside Seimas during the spring session can change a great deal.
I agree, it is an apocalyptic image, however if that was not the case then why would the Prime Minister ever be meeting with opposition leaders and then yapping on about all sorts of Pilvelytės and Lolas? They could straightforwardly state that it is an army being gathered, if not for the Battle of Grunwald, then for a battle of minds. Just whose side will Duke Ramūnas be on?

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