Lithuanian politics – never ending Soap Opera
This week could be considered a hot week in the Lithuanian political scene. The political life (scandals) is intensive on daily bases in here. However, not every week there is the non-confidence vote for the Prime Minister in the Parliament, resignation of the Speaker (second most important person in Lithuanian politics, at least according to the Constitution). We also witnessed an election of the new Seimas’ Speaker, refusal to elect the Vice- Speaker, election of the Head of the Constitutional Court, the disappearance of a political group in the ruing majority Government coalition, rise of the Social Democratic political group in the Parliament to the 38 MPs, failing to recognise the Independence in Kosovo, and then… I should stop here. That happened in one single week! Welcome to the soap opera of the Lithuanian politics! Who was the winner?
There is nothing new about disappearance of the Civil Democracy faction. The ex Seimas’ Speaker’s Muntianas’ Civil Democracy party was a party which clearly has no future. It formed after a splinter group of the MPs left the populist Labour party, and joined the ruling minority coalition. It has a very little public support, and its representation in Seimas is disproportional to its influence. Muntnianas, who lacks charisma, to say the least, is not popular amongst politicians, even though he was ‘comfortable’ to the many for the time being. However, his mission is over.
During the process of the formation of the majority government the Social Liberal party joined the coalition. The negotiators of the Social Democrats offered the Social Liberals the Minister of the Environment post and other not too influential positions. However, what the Social Liberals were after was the Head of the influential Seimas National Security Committee, which is at the moment is headed by MP Matulevicius, member of the Civil Democracy party.
MP Matulecivius has refused to give up the post. The Social Liberals warned Muntinas that if Matulevicius will not go, you will.Since the Civil Democracy party had a minimal (7) amount of MPs needed to form a political faction in Seimas, there was a real threat that after Muntianas resignation from the Speakers post, the faction will lose some of its members to the other party and will cease to exist. It happened just that yesterday. Hence, the disappearance of the faction has open the way for the Social Liberals to head the Seimas’ National Security Committee.
The Committee has a crucial importance for the Social Liberal party since this would bring the party back to the classified information in the possession of the Committee. Even though the Social Liberals had its member in the Committee already it is more convenient to head it. Furthermore, the ruling coalition did not like MP Matulevicius who was accused of serving the opposition Conservative party.If (perhaps ‘when’ is more appropriate) the Social Liberals would start heading the Committee of the National Security this would give a very strong tool in the hands of the party in the forthcoming elections in October 12. In the past the Social Liberals proved to be the true masters in manipulating information to gain the political influence in Seimas. Since almost every Lithuanian politician has a ‘tail’ of some sort, a leak of such info into the press in the right time can damage a political figure.
The latest example was the Muntianas case. The Speaker has paid a 2.000 Litas (EUR 1 – 3.45 LTL) in cash payment for services to a Kaunas official. This operation was recorded on the camera and leaked to the press on the March 18. Since the Speaker could not prove that this was not a bribe but a payment for services he decided to resign. However, the information was leaked few weeks ago, and the action of giving the cash took place in the summer of 2007. Right time, right place, so to say. Such and similar info is available on majority of the Lithuanian politicians. Hence this is a very important tool in the political fighting.
Another reason for Muntianas’ resignation was an element of the ‘sweet revenge’ from Mr Viktor Uspaskich. Mr Uspaskich is the Labour Party leader, the same party that MP Muntinas deserted and was one of the closest Uspaskich comrades in business. Uspaskich thinks that Muntianas has betrayed him. Well, actually Muntianas did just that.
The Prime Minister Kirkilas not only withstands the possible vote of non-confidence in the parliament but also came out of it with gains for the Social Democrat party in the parliament. The defection from the Civil Democracy party, including MP Muntianas made the Social Democrat party the most numerous party in Seimas. In addition to all of that the Social Democrats gained the post of the Speaker of Seimas.
A question remains if this Lithuanian political Soap Opera would impress the Lithuanian voters. According to the opinion polls the support for the Social Democrat party has not been so low for few years at least. However, the Social Democrat party is famous for being as the ‘power party’. This party joined the Seimas in 2004 as the third largest party with 20 MPs. Now the party has 38 MPs in its faction and is the largest in the Parliament. As the PM Kirkilas, who is happened to be the head of the party also, recently said that the best opinion poll is the elections. Well, he is right, lets wait and see, October 12 is very soon.