The upcoming Lithuanian Republic Liberal Movement (LS) chairman elections are important. December 9 will show whether this party will manage to free itself both externally and internally of the political corruption scandal.
And it is only deepening and expanding.
An investigation has been ongoing since May 2016 over the potential corruption, abuses, sale of influence for the party's benefit between the Liberal Movement and the MG Baltic group. Initially the suspicions were only linked with the actions of Liberal chairman Eligijus Masiulis, later suspicions were declared toward liberal Šarūnas Gustainis, later – Gintaras Steponavičius. The incriminating criminal actions of the Liberal Movement leaders were transferred onto the Liberal Movement as a party in general.
A year and a half ago, when law enforcement expressed suspicions toward E. Masiulis, the Liberals began wondering, what is going on here and what to do.
Two political lines emerged in the party.
The supporters of one (Eugenijus and Simonas Getvilas, Remigijus Šimašius and others) explained that apparently the Liberals as a party are unrelated and it is only individuals who are involved. Law enforcement would soon come to the bottom of it and the Liberals would procedurally cooperate.
The thesis was expressed with exceptions, namely that if the party is incriminated, it would defend itself, make use of procedures, "question" law enforcement interpretations, will deny them in court and would employ lawyers to that end. The supporters of this line stand by it until the very end. According to E. Gentvilas "perhaps the Liberals praised law enforcement too long" and why exactly "law enforcement discussions were over the Liberal case were renewed with the Liberal chairman elections nearing?"
The supporters of the other line (Petras Auštrevičius, Vitalijus Gailius and others) emphasised that cooperation with law enforcement is a must. However they stated that such cooperation is necessary not for legal defence, but political cleansing. They offered the Liberal Movement to change fundamentally, view the circumstances not as legal-procedural, but as a political question, that is to say distance the Liberals from suspicions of political corruption by uniting the party once more, rather than shuffling around the party leadership.
The first – the Gentvilas family and Šimašius line – won. Most likely because most Liberal Movement member intuitively felt inside that they were not at fault.
One must consider the matter that so far we have not "heard" the Liberal Movement case details. No conversations have been made public. As for what impact such publication could have is well illustrated in the recently released MG Baltic and Kauno Tiltai representatives' talk about appointments in the Road Directorate. If we see the texts of the talks with the Liberals, it may be that E. Gentvilas' line to defend based on procedures may be pure nonsense and suicide.
I have no doubt that E. Gentvilas as a signatory of the Act of Independence is a very experienced Lithuanian politician who has done a great deal of good for Lithuania and his party, having also suitably represented in the European Parliament. However it is odd that he chose to once again run for the office of Liberal Movement chairman.
Primarily it is odd just because E. Masiulis was his student and protégé. E. Masiulis became and reinforced himself as party chairman with E. Gentvilas' assistance. It is hard to believe that E. Gentvilas knew nothing of what was going on in the party, with E. Masiulis and around him.
Furthermore it is completely unclear how the damages dispute between E. Gentvilas himself and the former Klaipėdos Uostas directorate director general will end.
If E. Gentvilas himself does not feel moral responsibility for what happened with the former party chairman E. Masiulis or the potential millions in damages to Klaipėda port, then party members should carefully study what happened with the Lithuanian Social Democrats.
Instead of the Liberal Movement renewing itself, it could be a challenge which could drown the party. What the Liberals certainly don't need tomorrow is yet another party chairman in court.
The other choice for the Liberal Movement is Seimas Anti-Corruption Commission chairman V. Gailius. It would appear that today he is a fairly rational choice for the Liberals. Just the word – anti-corruption – is exactly what the party needs. However some may have doubts just how much V. Gailius is a liberal, how much a social democrat, conservative, "farmer" or simply "cop".
What sort of liberal he is we will see yet, but one way or another for V. Gailius to prove himself, we can simply recall his principled stance toward the Presidential Palace during the FNTT scandal and that he has been elected to Seimas in his single mandate district consecutive times now, that is to say he has people's trust.
It truly appears that V. Gailius would remain a supporter of P. Auštrevičius' line, following not blindly, through procedures to defend what is indefensible, but openly and transparently cooperating with law enforcement, seeking to cleanse the Liberal Movement and rebuild people's trust in it.
It is lamentable that only these two politicians dare seek to lead the Liberal Movement today because the party has a number of prominent figures.
But even with circumstances as are, an important choice awaits – to vote for "continuity", that is to say the coalition of Šimašius-Gentvilas family or choose a radical process of transparency – the Auštrevičius-Gailius coalition.
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