Ramūnas Bogdanas. Invertebrate formations in municipal rule
It is time to get used to electoral committees – we have lived through a full term of municipal rule with them after all.
Political scientists, party nomenclature and everyone else, who enjoys clear order, remain shocked by the variety, which does not fit into the neat shelves they have.
After all, it would be so great to arrange all of life and the world that serves it in these shelves. Preferably not too many shelves because variety only causes chaos.
There are sufficiently many taste and opinion formers, who seek to convince people that three types of canned tomato is plenty in your shelves to satisfy any taste. Perhaps it would suffice for the generic taste, but there are still gourmets, fairly influential ones, who are not content with this. For them, little shops selling subtleties open up.
Old supply insufficient
What should people, who do not see anything acceptable in the parties' shelves, do? One can be seen to be rotten despite the packaging, the other does not engender belief that on opening you will find the promised product, the third has arisen from internal pressure and is mangled by the hammer of law enforcement.
By constantly poisoning voters with tested, but clearly unacceptable produce, you could turn the whole country into a terrible hospital.
Under market conditions, in such a situation, cunning people, who notice an unfilled niche come into play. They are not led by Mother Theresa type figures seeking to feed the hungering.
The main engine of the markets is not love for your fellow man, but the pursuit of profit and benefit. Suppliers will offer you tens of types of rice not in order to offer a variety of flavours, but seeking to open as many wallets as possible.
With a clear decline in product quality within the political world and with bells ringing that no one wants them anymore, a new, untried flavour emerges – electoral committees. If you can recall, even the key of the Constitutional Court was needed for them to be allowed into the municipal political marketplace. Up to then, those in power continued to purr: choose from among us, from the parties, just look at the pretty line-up.
Failing to understand that the parties do not satisfy the electoral market with their quality is constantly exploited by every term's saviours. In the municipalities, this was exploited by the newly allowed committees.
This is not a unique feature of Lithuania. Neighbouring Poland has seen committees operating from the turn of the millennium. The unique point to Lithuania is that tenfold larger Poland makes do with 27 committees, while almost 90 participated in the Lithuanian elections this year. Conclusion: complete miniaturization.
Not the squads of the election competition, but simply the mincemeat of electoral committees that fills up the municipal rule floor of the government building. From up above, the central government breaks some eggs into this where it likes, pours some flour or salt.
Municipal reform in Lithuania is stuck at the halfway point, thus much is decided not by the local government, but the centre in Vilnius.
Immature Lithuanian municipal rule
But perhaps it's all fine that not everything is handed to the municipal government? Is it truly mature enough to decide responsibly?
The popularity of electoral committees in this election appeared from party branches in municipalities acrobatically forming coalitions, leaving voters shocked how their hopefully elected hedgehog is being bred with the voter's hated snake and instead of unfulfilled promises, you're left with barbed wire.
While local party nomenclature in Lithuania prided itself on its flexible spine, in the voters' eyes they simply left the world of common people where commitments, pledges and declared values still mean something.
They emerged in a different world – the world of invertebrates. It is filled to the brim and is notable for its infinite variety. There's plenty of choice.
Committees were filed with various party renegades and refugees, individuals of interest to law enforcement, businessmen with a plan and youths seeking a launch platform.
Being a tiny on the Lithuanian scale "group of friends", being content with pursuits that satisfy their yard friends.
A bigger problem could emerge in Kaunas where the yard is too large and can be seen from much further, but oversight that could limit appetites is no more. The more trust is displayed, the greater punishment is desired once you feel cheated. Who will rein in greed where the sea seems knee deep?
The final duel for the office of capital mayor became a parody-worthy exchange of a convicted rogue hero against a smiling captain, who just fled his party's ship, which is quickly sinking in a storm. In Klaipėda, one of the participants of the final, having abandoned the Social Democrats, who nurtured him, after they were left without power, was backed monetarily by individuals, who raise concerns for the State Security Department and are publicly discussed in the department's report.
Last term, the average Lithuanian mayor was a 51-year-old engineer-mechanic. If municipalities are the national cadre blacksmith, where the elected should obtain understanding of how the country is governed and politics performed, with such a statistic mayor we will have quality in neither Seimas, nor cabinet.
We can only await detailed studies on what was brought and what is promised by this term.
Meanwhile, Seimas politicians, snoozing through last municipal term, could finally take to equalising the rules of the game for parties and committees.
The electoral campaigns are fed by money, thus its flows should be available to all participants equally from the same gas pump, with the same counter, with no opportunity to refill your gas tank from suspect injections.
From this depends the voters' health and their ability to choose rationally.