New Parliament and new beginning for Lithuania

November 18, 2008 at 1:44 am 4 comments

Seimas Hall iiMost of the important events in the modern Lithuanian history are taking place during the cold season.  Those events in the most of occasions they played positive role in Lithuania’s development.  Let us begin with both declarations of Independence.   Today, according to the weather forecast, the winter weather is arriving to Lithuania.  Simultaneously two significant events are taking place; a newly elected parliament has convened, and the Lithuanian citizens can start travel to the USA without visas.

The first event will have a huge impact on Lithuania’s life in practical terms; the second has a huge significance in moral terms.

The USA elected a Democrat candidate as their president (which could be argued is more to the political left) and in Lithuania’s elections the centre right parties received a majority.  Nevertheless, in the last two terms the Americans preferred to see the Republican president.  On the other hand the Lithuanian Parliament for the last two terms was dominated by the skilful Social Democrats.

Hence, what could be said about the Lithuanian Parliamentarian election results?  First of all, only some 48 per cent of all voters came to vote.  A referendum for extension of the Ignalina life span, which was held on the same day, did not attract additional voters.  Since less than half of those eligible to vote turned up the referendum it did not happen.

Secondly, some of the Western observers hastily announced that the populists have won again.  If one would only count votes alone this might be a right assumption – 41 out of 141 MPs belong to the populist parties.  However, it is far from enough from forming a government.  Moreover, the three parties which are casted as populist are divided.  Two of the older ones began mentioning a possibility of uniting their forces in future even though one of them Order and Justice declared that they will be in opposition, and the Labour party would support some of the ruling coalition’s decisions.  The other, newly created Nation’s Resurrection Party already before elections announced that the party would under no circumstances work together with the Order and Justice.

The new Resurrection party is unknown in the Lithuanian politics even though it is created by one of the most recognizable faces in Lithuania.  The majority of the party consists of the TV show bizz representatives.  The party managed to get 16 seats in the new parliament and will be in the new centre right coalition.  The leader of the party Mr Valinskas  (the new Seimas Speaker) is the best paid Lithuanian TV producer and the most famous TV personalities.  It is unclear who is behind the creation of the party, even though there are some assumptions that the party is a political project created by Social Democrats or the largest business group VP Market.

According to this theory the Resurrection party should join the government and support the Conservative government during the economical crises and then ‘switch’ the sides when it is convenient for the Social Democrats.  Moreover, it is unclear on what side of the political spectrum this party belongs to.  The Party leader Valinskas mentioned few times that there are no political left or right, the correct direction is to move forwards, that this is what his party will do.  Another party’s role was to ‘steal’ some votes from the other populist parties, which it did.

One more surprising outcome was that two centre left former populist parties did not make it to the parliament at all neither did their leaders.  On the other hand it is surprising that the two divided liberal parties made it to Seimas.

Today, the four parties Conservatives, Resurrection Party, Liberal Union and the Centre and Liberal Union have signed a coalition agreement and more likely will form a new centre right majority government.

The government-elect, is called a crises government and is ready to undertake a huge task of reducing the looming economical crisis’ effects.  The most encouraging factor is that the PM-elect Kublius has a lot of experience in taking Lithuania out of crises and laying out sound foundations for the future Lithuania’s development.  He undertook Premiership after Lithuania felt the most severe economical crises which followed 1998 Russia’s default.  Hence, it seems that Lithuania, at least for the time being is in experienced hands.

There are still some the Constitutional stages to be passed in order for the new Government to be officially sworn in but this should happen in the first third of December.    

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Entry filed under: Baltic States, Lithuania, Northern Europe, Politics.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. peter  |  November 18, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    I am an American Living and breathing Lithuania, and I must say that over my small time in Lithuania (Seven Years), the Government has gone from bad to worse. How can a government made up of Television personalities and lazy socialites run a country?
    Question on all peoples minds is, where is the electric going to come from when the government adhere to an EU ruling and shut down the only source of cheap electric it has, Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant Reactor 2. So Lithuania government is in a twist. What is going to become of this country?
    The amount of Fraud of EU funds in this country is pandemic, yet no one has uttered a word! In a recession the Government raises taxes, goes to show in an old Baltic State, the sheep out number the Shepard’s, and this is what happens. The fate of this once mighty and beautiful country is left to brainless idiots who’s TV contracts were about to die out and have found themselves new scripts where peoples lives and matters of state are real!
    This country is going, I mean gone to the dogs, if you are coming here to witness the Culture of 2009, please get on a bus and go to the suburbs where poverty is still rampant, where the police bribe stool owners in markets, and where there is no social housing, welfare or help! This country was getting up, moving forward, but I see the dark days returning, and a miss mash flow of corruption and theft, gun crime and extortion becoming once again common place.

    Reply
  • 2. Nerijus  |  November 19, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Very well pronounced Peter. But I of the opininion that not as everything as bad as it seems. I presume I am not alone in thinking that Valinskas’ Party came to gather votes from other populist parties largely from Paksas and Uspaskih rallies.I do not know was it a big setback for Americans to have Reagan and Schwarzenegger or not. Where they the best men for a job? Certainly not.The country we have hasn’t come from nowhere, I mean history didn’t pamper us at all. At the end of the day I can’t found myself in a position of mocking and bewildering everything what is happening in this country just merely out from the legacy we entitled to cope with.

    Reply
  • 3. Ruslanas Iržikevičius  |  November 19, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Hello Peter,

    I agree that situation in Lithuania is difficult. However, I am inclined to disagree with you about it getting worse. I also returned to Lithuania more almost eight years ago and could monitor its development. The development is very rapid, lets only have a look at the centers (excluding Kaunas, maybe) of towns. I agree that this did not reach villages and smaller towns. Still Peter, lets be honest, just remember how Vilnius looked seven years ago, and how it looks now. What people could have bought for their monthly wages seven years ago, and what they can afford now? If you will start comparing Lithuania now and seven years ago, yes, life for majority of Lithuanians is improving. If you are comparing USA and Lithuania, well, you should not.

    The corruption, yes this is a problem. In regards to the EU funds: the government has applied for those funds such a strict criteria that this put many potential applicants off from applying. The problems exist but Lithuania is not stepping out of a general line in comprising to the other New EU Member States.

    Hence, the situation is not that bad, even we still have a lot to do. About Valinskas, I personally think that is not a political party, but a political project to fight the populists in Lithuania. This time it worked, even though, perhaps this not too healthy for the young Lithuanian democracy.

    Best regards,

    Reply
  • 4. Vidas  |  November 21, 2008 at 8:00 am

    There are just too many stream of consciousness aspects of Peters post to cover. Have to say that I agree with very little of it.

    Modern Lithuania has existed for 20 years. Surviving several hundred years of language/culture/identity stagnation at the hand of occupiers but managing to build a functioning society, EU and NATO membership, all in the space of 20 years is nothing less than absolutely remarkable. Corruption, crime, apathy are real problems – but lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Lithuania is a much stronger nation now than it was during the interwar period and certainly much stronger than it was during soviet times.

    Ruslanas notes that Valinskas and his crew arent so much political as they are reactionaries. Maybe the TPP was meant to be satire – exposing the failings of the populists and ex communists, hoping to move the voters more center right than populist left. On the latter they seem to have succeeded – but in mounting that effort Valinskas and the TPP have managed to get themselves elected to Seimas in substantial numbers.

    Valinskas has promised from the beginning that if elected he intends to promote experts and professionals in government as opposed to career politicians. Some signs of that have surfaced – but in other places he’s shown personal favoritism that isnt exactly encouraging. All in all, I’m still in a wait and see mode. I consider Kubilius to be more of a liability as far as this coalition governments longevity is concerned. I also consider Masiulis’ parties participation a particularly strong plus along with some segments of Zuokas’ party – excluding Zuokas himself of course…

    I’ll finish by disagreeing with Ruslanas that this Seimas election is/was perhaps “not too healthy” for democracy in Lithuania. Quite the opposite. Another round of Darbieciai and Tvarkieciai would have been not too healthy for democracy. The fact that the Lithuanian electorate decided to take a new path and select new leadership was particularly inspiring.

    Reply

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