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Algirdas Butkevičius
Algirdas Butkevičius
© DELFI / Domantas Pipas

Has no doubts S. Skvernelis will become Prime Minister

During a Wednesday ( November 2) Delfi conference, incumbent Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius discussed the now concluded election and listed who could become the new leaders of his party, as well as mentioned how the negotiations with the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (LVŽS) are progressing.

Under his leadership the Lithuanian Social Democrat Party (LSDP) took 17 mandates in the election and conceded a loss. However the party is now in coalition negotiations with the Peasant and Greens Union which won 56 mandates and as a result – the elections.

After the election, internal discussions rose in the party, why the Social Democrats failed; a question of leadership arose. PM Butkevičius pledged not to run in the race for chairmanship in spring.
“First of all I want to say that I am responsible for the political stability of the party. If it was clearly declared that I should resign, then yes, but I have no received such demands. Secondly the statements of some of my advisors could be seen as specifically targeted against me. Some of my deputies work such that the chairman was critiqued, were happy with unachieved results,” Butkevičius made no effort to disguise his grievances.

Feeling pressure

He remembered the previous election, when the Social Democrats earned 10 mandates, but the party leaders of the time were not as heavily criticised, nor asked to step down.

“We have perhaps gotten too used to being at the top of the ratings, thinking that the situation will continue up to the elections without doing anything – without visiting, without campaigning,” the PM identified this year’s mistake.

“We thought that the cabinet is doing work. The sort that is positive, visible, and beneficial. But it appears that more attention needs to be dedicated to public relations. Everything that you achieve and do sometimes needs to be repeated ten times. Another thing, we did not make any populist pledges <…>. We are acting like farmers, but this was a mistake being made,” Butkevičius continued on his party’s mistakes.

Identified potential chairman candidates

According to him, the first vote for the seat of chairman will be party-wide. Later two of the most voted for candidates will face off.

“We want to test other options as well. We want to encourage branches to be more active, to evaluate the work of their colleagues, whether they really know party leaders, perhaps some have only joined, but are not active <…> I believe it will be a more democratic process,” the PM explained changes in the party chairman election system.

As far as potential new leaders go, Butkevičius noted several names. “I had mentioned three young candidates. I am very sorry for Juras Požela, I saw him as the best of the young generation. Others – Mindaugas Sinkevičius, Gintautas Paluckas, Justas Pankauskas,” he listed the names, adding that it is undeniable that Vilija Blinkevičiūtė is also a popular candidate and he hopes that she will also be a candidate, one of the 8-9 he expects.

Beginning to review the programme

Regarding the coalition negotiations, Butkevičius admitted that the LVŽS did not want to see certain LSDP representatives at the negotiation table, they even specified names.

Unofficially the Social Democrats are not raising any demands to the “Peasants”. Butkevičius, however, explains that he has not raised any questions on ministerial assignations, but assured that he has been striving to focus attention on creating a common programme.

“We have tasked our political committees, I in the morning – my advisors. The “Harmonious Lithuania” programme will be the basis, every chapter will be analysed and we will present our view, what needs changing, we will express our opinion, what positions we are not in accord with. Where we fail to obtain compromise, we have agreed to clearly identify it, but we agreed that we will not fight on these questions and will leave it to the Seimas, keeping to our own positions,” he explained.

Sees that proposals will take time to implement

When asked what proposals may clash, Butkevičius assured that this is currently being discussed.
“From our side Rimantas Vaitkus already worked yesterday, reviewed the education and science programme, presented what proposals should be put on the table. Some of the proposals, in our opinion will hopefully not be implemented in 2017 yet. This is because next year’s budget project is already submitted to the Seimas. We believe that the proposals will only be implemented in 2018 or 2019, an example – student “baskets”,” said the PM.

In his personal opinion the student “basket” system is already unsuited to contemporary trends.

Mentioned potential ministers

A. Butkevičius explained he has no fear of the Social Democrats simply “dissolving” in a coalition with the Peasant Greens, according to him there are many competent people in his party, and thus it is not a risk.

“If the Conservatives entered the coalition with the LVŽS, we definitely would not have joined such an entity. But when we saw that the “Peasants” and the Conservatives are unable to come to terms, we gathered the party, stated we do not want a government crisis, that the minority would only last for no more than 6 months, that we respect the voter’s choice and are prepared to implement a common programme, using “Harmonious Lithuania” as a basis,” he said.

The PM did not have any specific candidates for ministers. That said he stated he would agree with Linas Linkevičius being Minister of Foreign Affairs once again.

“I will hazard a joke – while it is unlikely to achieve that V. Blinkevičiūtė would return to a minister post, Rasa Budbergytė has already earned her keep. But we have others, groomed to be ministers,” he assured.

Identified current agreements

A. Butkevičius identified points where his party has already come to agreement with the LVŽS.
“We have agreed that by November 10, the programme has to be prepared. Of course it can be improved. But by then we have to have a coalition agreement signed by the party leaders. There was a question of the deputy ministers not necessarily being from other parties. I agreed that the minister can select his own deputy ministers, but that was only a discussion, there was no firm agreement,” he explained.

Nevertheless Butkevičius stressed that he does not intend to blindly follow the LVŽS’ lead. Supposedly proposals by this party’s representatives are populistic and surreal, for example increasing the fiscal to 3%, they could no longer negotiate.

Criticised the President

When asked how he views the President’s statements prior to the election, A. Butkevičius did not conceal his grievances.

“She definitely failed the impartiality test. I am not afraid of saying so. Presidents should not and cannot do so. This was clearly visible,” he poured on criticism.

According to Butkevičius, while the majority was forming, there were many negative responses, guesses, how far it can drag on.

“I think that it was a well prepared strategy, using certain strategic words – renewal, change. The other direction – corruption, thieves, an inept cabinet. If you repeat such words for a year, it isn’t surprising that a part of the people come to believe it,” he explained.

Sees Skvernelis as PM

The politician remembered that the President was once on good terms and wished for that for the new PM. A. Butkevičius had no doubt that it will be Saulius Skvernelis taking the post.
“What relations will be with the new PM, no doubt it will be Saulius Skvernelis, it is hard to say. I would like for them to be normal. Though first of all, regarding certain key questions I would like there to be support from the President,” he shared his expectations.

According to Butkevičius, the Social Democrats would have a candidate for Seimas Speaker, but he explained he believes that this post will most likely be assigned by the LVŽS.

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