The Prime Minister S. Skvernelis retorted to the newly elected chairman of the Social Democrats Gintautas Paluckas: he refused to meet him, and in his place met with the chairman of the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats, Gabrielius Landsbergis.
It is not an everyday occurrence in political life: this is an understatement of your partner and a political manifest. Maybe it is a gesture to show that partners in the coalition are replaceable.
As Povilas Urbšys, the spokesman of the Farmers and Greens Union, has stated, there are three options for a coalition: current coalition of Farmers and Social Democrats, minority Government and coalition with a different political power (the Conservatives).
“We’re ready for all possibilities: to work in this coalition or in a minority and at the same time look for support for out bills. The third option is for another political power to join the coalition. I would not rush to evaluate what would happen if the coalition fell. In the end people are tired from the fights over internal relations, they are waiting for results” – said P.Urbšys.
In theory, there might be a fourth option –S. Skvernelis the “apostates” and their communication with the Conservatives. However, there would not be enough votes for this to happen. Because even if half of the Farmers separated and if you add 31 Conservatives, there is still not enough for a Parliamentary majority.
Even if there was a possibility of a liberal Movement partnership, after the prosecutors accused “MG Baltic” in meddling with the party affairs, their involvement would only harm them.
That is why Farmers and Greens Union representative guesses that S. Skvernelis actions against the new Social Democrat chairman G. Paluckas could mean that he wants the Social Democrats to become the opposition. Then the Farmers would have to negotiate with the Conservatives – whether Ramūnas Karbauskis wants this or not.
“The Conservatives may seem more lenient to the PM: the forest enterprise reform is suitable for them, the same goes for higher education, and the Labour Code as well” – wondered the politician.
Farmers and Social Democrats are convenient
The current coalition of Farmers and Social Democrats was formed because it was convenient: it ensures the amount of votes, as in the last elections the Social Democrats have suffered and had no big demands in the coalition debates.
Farmers have 56 Parliament members in their group, and if you add the chairman of the Parliament Viktoras Pranckietis, you can talk about 57 people in the group.
If Antanas Baura wins in the one-member Anykščiai-Panevėžys district, the Farmers will have 58 representatives in the Parliament.
The Social Democrats have 19 members in their group, and out of those – two are “labourers”. So the ruling majority in the Parliament currently has 76 votes out of 141 – that is enough to adopt laws, even though stability is not one of its traits.
The Social Democrats often talk that they are the best partner for the Farmers as they are not too large, and do not pose a threat. However, they have enough experience to help the Farmers.
However, the Social Democrats never hid that on some issues they disagree with Farmers Greens. For example, the forest enterprise reform was a sensitive spot for the Social Democrats: they have said numerous times that they won’t support the harshest option.
Farmers always get frustrated, even if they knew this from the start of the negotiations. After the last draft of the Forest law was given to the Parliament, the Farmers openly talked about terminating the coalition with the Social Democrats. They even had a vote, but only 17 members were in favour of the termination.
After G. Paluckas was elected as the new chairman of the Social Democrats, he gave a few remarks: first, the consultations with the Social Democrats have to be not a public discussion on projects, and second, the Social Democrats will seek to have their priorities included in the Government plan and the action plan.
The new leader also considered that the Social Democrats might change their views on the Labour Code as they should not repeat their mistakes. It is thought that their insensitive position on the Labour Code harmed them in the Parliament elections.
However, S. Skvernelis also had a remark for G. Paluckas: he suggested the new chairman to get back on the ground and did not want to meet him until he did so.
Farmers and the Conservatives: an allergy
A coalition like this could have happened straight after the Parliament elections but didn’t for several reasons: first, the Conservative demands for the Farmers seemed exaggerated, second, the Conservatives accused the farmer leader R. Karbauskis of having ties to Russia, and third, the Conservatives wanted to be the only alternative and the farmers were looking at the Social democrats at the same time.
During those negotiations it was clear that S. Skvernelis wants to talk to the Conservatives, who met with G. Landsbergis. But it became clear that he has no power to talk on behalf of the Farmers and Greens Union.
Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats have a parliamentary group of 31 people, so they could have a strong coalition together with 57 or 58 Farmers. However, the opposition between G. Landsbergis and R. Karbauskis is in the way – their values, thinking and principles do no match.
S. Skvernelis constantly shows favour to G. Landsbergis and tries to ensure the support of the Conservatives in the parliament on certain issues.
By doing this the Conservatives show that they are a constructive opposition but are trying to shift the political arena to show themselves as true patriots: that when the PM and his Government are arguing and fail at implementing reforms, they think first about the state.
A minority Government
A majority Government is the least favourable scenario because the votes for every new law would have to come from the outside. This means that the Farmers would need at least 14 votes, but having their experience and different interests in mind, they would need a bigger support for the MP’s for a successful work.
This model is successful if the party in the ruling minority can ensure the informal support from the opposing party. This is done in case when the opposing parties are uncomfortable or it is not useful for them to support the ones in power, because it harms their image.
Lithuania had a minority Government with a Social Democrat Gediminas Kirkilas. Then he had the informal support of the Conservatives.
The coalition of “apostates” and the Conservatives: not enough votes
We might theoretically consider a split of S. Skvernelis group from the Farmer and Green Union group. However, if we look at the numbers, this scenario is unlikely.
S. Skvernelis has publicly said that he had been suggested to create a group of reforms – either a separate one or inside the Farmer and Green Union group. The PM has tried to identify the members of the group, who would agree with him by collecting signatures after a document that suggests the original spelling of names in personal documents.
24 out of 57 members of the Farmer group have signed this, when adding S. Skvernelis himself. Even though a few did not sign, they agree with the proposition. The PM himself said that it is a test of democracy, but unofficially this step had much more meaning.
However, if S. Skernelis jumped through hurdles and those who signed would do the same, there would not be enough votes for a coalition with the Conservatives: 24 and 31 do not guarantee a majority in the Parliament.
When looking at other parties in the Parliament Liberal Movement could be thought as a possible partner. However they have a difficult situation: the prosecutors, in asking to eliminate the immunity of Gintaras Steponavičius, they threw a shadow over the whole party.
Collaboration with “Order and Justice” seems impossible because of their image, suspicions and the small number of members in the group – only 7 work in the Parliament. The collaboration with electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania-Christian family Union also does not have much perspectives as it unites only 8 members.