The Social Democrats have chosen to begin negotiations on a coalition with the “Peasants.” In the aftermath of all that has been said in the week after the elections it looks logical. You could suspect that both the Conservatives and Social Democrats found it hard to cope with the idea of being the junior, not senior partner in the coalition, however the latter had fewer grudges against the winners.
Mindaugas Jurkynas
© DELFI (A.Didžgalvio nuotr.)

The discussion with Vytautas Magnus University Political Science and Diplomacy faculty professor Mindaugas Jurkynas focuses on the possibilities and stability of the future four year coalition.

- When on Friday I found out that the Social Democrats decided to begin negotiations with the “Peasants,” I remembered how the Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius was talked into hiding that one of his ministers, Saulius Skvernelis will join the elections with the “Peasants” by Skvernelis himself and this withheld information was discussed in the company of Ramūnas Karbauskis. I can only conclude that they come to terms. Do you have any doubt they will come to a deal regarding the coalition?

I would say that it is only the start. Either way between the “Peasants” and the Social Democrats, if we look at economic values, there are more similarities than between the “Peasants” and Conservatives, despite half a year of Conservative trumpeting that the “Peasants” are their close partners.

The beginning of negotiations does not mean that the end result is a foregone conclusion. But the fact that there is willingness to negotiate shows that the Social Democrats would like to be the partner that participates in politics. Perhaps they will attempt to “paint” themselves into the leftist ideology, leftist idea image.

In fact the Social Democrats received a significant amount of criticism for not representing the socially marginalised.

- Partnering with the “Peasants” will make them more socially sensitive?

They will be in a centre-leftist or leftist coalition regardless and will be able to call themselves leftists. Of course the question arises – what sort of policy will they pursue? But I would say there is a large degree of danger because the smaller partners often receive larger punishments from voters after elections.

Secondly having such a small number of mandates – 17 against de facto 56, means it will be hard to have a big impact on the coalition. The number of posts and limits of responsibility will be very narrow. Having such a small role, it will be hard to highlight their profile as Social Democrats.
- Are you speaking what I’m thinking? That several years ago the Social Democrats earned 25 mandates, now they received only 17. Are you suggesting that after the marriage with the “Peasants” they will overall struggle with the 5% vote barrier?

Such a result is possible if the “Peasants” truly do take up leftist policy, portraying social sensitivity, increasing pensions (the question of where to find funding still stands of course), and showing more attention to the public sector, healthcare, education, providing more funding. The natural question of why the Social Democrats didn’t do this will appear.

Once again, the Social Democrats, in joining the coalition want to prevent the “Peasants” from receiving all the credit, but on the other hand, the “Peasants” have so much weight in the coalition that the Social Democrats may be drowned out in terms of both politics, management and public relations.

If the “Peasant” policies experience failure, those failures will be shared to a great extent by the same Social Democrats, who face a question of survival in politics, of leftist politics overall, along the lines of what has happened in Poland, Hungary and Estonia, it could become problematic.

- You mentioned the number of coalition members – 56 and 17. This is only 73. It is very fragile – one leaves on a business trip and that’s it – practically no more coalition.

It could even happen in the opposition, but on the other hand, it is probably realistic to expect that the coalition could be made larger by attracting other partners. Knowing that already the night after the second round of elections, Waldemar Tomaszewski began singing praises about the “Peasants” programme values, which are oh so very close to those of the Polish Electoral Action in Lithuania – Christian Families Union (LLRA-KŠS). I would definitely not be surprised if the LLRA-KŠS ended up either in the coalition or announced that they will support the majority, TV3.lt reported.

- Couldn’t the Social Democrats do the same? The Conservatives told the minority cabinet of G. Kirkilas that they will provide support, if they find the proposals acceptable, but not going as far as joining a coalition. Wouldn’t this be more beneficial for the Social Democrats?

This could definitely be one of the options. Minority cabinets occur frequently in the Scandinavian states. They occurred most right after the Second World War. This is due to a simple reason – the party or parties making up the cabinet, while being in the minority, could govern because the opposition parties obtained pledges that the minority government programme and policies will include proposals from opposition parties that will be fulfilled. This is a potential option for the Social Democrats.

- And the final thing – what reaction could this coalition expect from the President?

On one hand I have no doubt the President wanted change. This change, I believe, she associated more with the Conservatives and Liberals. The political support and sympathies have been expressed a number of times.

The changes arrived, but not where the President wanted them to. Naturally the democratic expression of the people should be respected and the changes are specifically represented by the “Peasants.” If the Social Democrats are to be in the coalition, then the number of changes will be smaller.

Perhaps it is a question of who of the Social Democrats will take posts, if there was not a single incumbent minister, except Linas Linkevičius. Perhaps you could say that these are new people. Perhaps real professionals, there are very few of them in the current coalition government. Perhaps those changes will be implemented by the “Peasants.”

- So honouring the will of the people with clenched teeth because there’s no other way?

And always reminding that those changes are not the sort that was perhaps expected because the Social Democrats, despite a strong chewing out by the voters, are still in power. If the “Peasants” and Social Democrats agree on a coalition, the negotiations will only have begun.

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