After long meetings with both the Conservatives and Social Democrats, on November 9 the winner of the Seimas elections, the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union signed a coalition agreement with the Social Democrats.
Algirdas Butkevičius ir Ramūnas Karbauskis
© DELFI / Domantas Pipas

With several months of mutual work already past, Ramūnas Karbauskis himself has said that the coalition is unique, based on not a signed document, but values instead, however the “Peasants” never know whether the Social Democrats will support them or not. “This Seimas is interesting that way, with different coalitions forming for various questions. Often these are coalitions that are not factual ones. Thus this may not be a Social Democrat – “Peasant” coalition in some cases, sometimes it is a “Peasant” – Conservative coalition in some cases,” said Ramūnas Karbauskis, TV3.lt reported.

Nevertheless Karbauskis concedes that it is difficult to work in a coalition where you cannot be certain your partners will support your proposals. “Sometimes we see that the opposition is supporting us, sometimes we see that it is only part of the opposition. Sometimes we see that we are being supported by our coalition partners, sometimes all, sometimes only a part. It is somewhat uncomfortable because you never know how voting will conclude. We have already gotten used to working this way,” the “Peasant” leader stated.

Social Democrats – confused?

Karbauskis observes no hesitation in the actions of the Social Democrats in regard to their mutual coalition. As for the perceived division revealed to the public, he views it as a matter of chairman election. “We see no hesitation. The coalition has been formed, the Social Democrats have appointed their ministers and the coalition has begun to work.

It would be rather odd and disreputable to begin after a month, when the cabinet has been formed. I believe that such talks are related to the party chairman election. Both for the Social Democrats and the Conservatives. They are experiencing leadership troubles. Obviously this does not aid our interactions with either party in Seimas. It is unclear what values some members of Seimas represent,” said Karbauskis.

Karbauskis sees benefits

The head of the Peasant Greens fraction does also see benefits to the current arrangement. In his opinion the work of the previous coalition was flawed. “We are simply thinking that the earlier practice, when all questions are agreed on and all coalition partners vote the same, it distorts things. Now we have somewhat different values and points of view. Thus it does not obstruct working with our current coalition partner, the Social Democrats. On January 12 we will be discussing the question of constitutional amendments which would move elections to spring.
Our fraction will vote in favour, but I do not know whether the Social Democrats will as well. And once again to bring this question up in the coalition format, to agree on it, we would probably take months to form the coalition. This is because such questions touch on values greatly and some are in favour, while others are against,” stated the fraction leader.

Fair to voters, but opposition loses purpose?

R. Karbauskis also hopes that such a value based coalition will be fair toward voters expectations. “Such an approach to coalition is very fair toward voters because each member of Seimas, regardless of whether they work in the opposition or the majority, they have their own values and they presented that to their voters. Currently speaking of, we can give the example of the Conservative members of Seimas, who think that alcohol regulation questions are important to their voters and themselves. They vote together with us and this shows that we are likeminded in this.

Meanwhile our coalition partners vote otherwise. So I believe that we should speak of values in politics more often and speak less of agreements, benefit or other such things and that is what we are trying to do. Then the factual presence in the opposition or majority loses meaning and in many cases we experienced that a part of the Conservative fraction voted for our proposals and some voted against,” stated Karbauskis.

Difficult to maintain such a majority

Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science lecturer, political scientist Mažvydas Jastramskis is less positive about the situation than R. Karbauskis. The political scientist believes that if not now, then in the future, the “Peasant” representatives will have to do some serious thinking. “Certain votes can occur in parliaments, when the majority of the parliament does not object, say it is also supported by other parties, which are calling themselves the opposition. In the longer term, however, well it will be difficult to maintain such a majority. If such a situation continues, sooner or later it will become necessary to decide what the state position is,” said the political scientist.

Jastramskis believes that the future of the majority government is unclear. According to him, it is no longer clear what the coalition agreement is for. “There are numerous scenarios for the fate of the “Peasants”. This situation is rather peculiar because what is the coalition agreement for now? You can then pose the question of what the two coalition partners have in common. If in the Seimas voting the coalition is not actually functioning,” he explained the situation.

Social Democrat political suicide

Jastramskis notes that considering the Social Democrats’ position in the coalition, the signing of the coalition agreement with the “Peasants” should not have been done in the first place. “Even prior to the elections I said that for the Social Democrats to join the coalition, in their current circumstances, with their loss in the elections, is almost equal to political suicide.

Thus from such a rational position, I believe that they have missed the moment, they should not have joined. But now that they have, they have to cope with the situation. Because if they now say that they changed their minds after a few months, I believe their public image will worsen even more,” said the political scientist.

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