Paralysed, Seimas stumbles towards the dead-end: it sees the light in the distance, but peace is not yet in sight

The opposition's revolt against the ruling party continues. The rebels have succeeded in paralysing the work of the Seimas, but neither side seems to have a clearer plan to extinguish the sudden fire.

Daugiau nuotraukų (1)

Jun 17, 2022, 12:43 PM

On Tuesday, a meeting between the ruling party and the opposition, organised by the Speaker of the Seimas, Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, was held to discuss a ceasefire, but there is no sign of peace yet.

Shortly after this meeting, the opposition briefly opened the doors of the Seimas Chamber, but only to prevent the ruling party from sitting alone.

With a narrow majority, the opposition managed to reject the agenda: 62 parliamentarians voted in favour, 60 against, and three abstained.

The opposition then returned to the March 11th Chamber, inviting the ruling party to join them. The latter separated by gritting their teeth and muttering to themselves that they would show their strength again.

„I would suggest to the opposition not to make jubilant announcements about this vote because it happens that six members of the ruling Seimas are sick, and there may be a situation in which a temporary majority is created on the other side,“ said conservative Jurgis Razma, the first vice-president of the Seimas, in a discouraged tone.

Čmilytė-Nielsen also tried not to make the situation more dramatic, hinting that the disruption of the work of the Seimas could lead to a long summer working period for parliamentarians.

In general, the ruling party tried to give the impression that it would not concede to the opposition but did not seem to know how to resolve the conflict.

They disagreed on a minister

The conflict erupted last week when the opposition's interpellation of Agriculture Minister Kęstutis Navickas failed.

In order to keep him in office, the ruling party rushed to pre-empt the opposition and held an emergency meeting early last Wednesday morning, where they accepted the minister's answers.

In fact, even some of the ruling party members admitted that Navickas was becoming a serious obstacle to the coalition, which might have to be removed. Eugenijus Gentvilas, the elder of the Liberals Movement group, also mentioned this. He also stated that the opposition's reproaches against some of the ruling party's representatives who behave violently are justified.

Ričardas Juška, a Liberal who heads the Committee on State Governance and Municipalities, was surprised on the „Lietuvos rytas“ TV programme „Not for the Press“ that the ruling party is defending Navickas, although this was not agreed upon with the coalition partners and the minister does not have the support of the Liberals.

According to the politician, the minister is disabled, and the members of the group share the same opinion on his performance, so it would not be appropriate for others to speak for the Liberals.

Andrius Mazuronis, Deputy Speaker of the Seimas and a member of the opposition Labour Party group, also believes that quick decisions by the ruling party on Navickas could be the key to ending the current conflict.

„The President should declare no confidence in the minister, and the ruling party, aware of the political realities, would be forced to react,“ said Mazuronis, who took part in the programme.

He should be aware of himself

However, it is unclear whether Navickas's possible resignation from the post of minister would quell the current passions.

Asked about this, Saulius Skvernelis, leader of the Democratic Union „In the Name of Lithuania“, said that ministers should have the support of all coalition members.

The former Prime Minister recalled the situation when the former ruling party tried to force the former Minister of Education and Science Jurgita Petrauskienė out of her post: „The Minister, not wanting to hold the whole government and the coalition hostage, resigned herself.“

„The interpellation of Navickas was the icing on the cake that started it all. The minister must realise that, despite the confidence of the Prime Minister, it is necessary to look at the broader political situation and make decisions.

It has now gone too far, but the dialogue has begun, and a solution to Navickas' problem would help that dialogue. The fact is that he does not have the support not only of the opposition but also of the majority,“ said the former Head of Government.

He sees the light in the distance

Acknowledging that Navickas's story was the last straw in the opposition's patience, Skvernelis said that it had been a steady process for a year and a half to get to the current situation.

According to the politician, the ruling party despised the opposition, but as the events in the Seimas on Tuesday showed, without its representatives, the majority could not even approve the agenda or decide on other elementary issues.

However, Skvernelis believes that the situation may change if the so-called dialogue group set up by the Speaker of the Seimas listens to the opposition's demands.

Mazuronis also hopes to find possible solutions in this group, but he believes that progress is moving too slowly: „Neither the opposition nor, apparently, the ruling party is satisfied with the current situation, and at least for me, I see the need to speed up the work of the group so that the Seimas can return to normal work as soon as possible, and not play the game of a two-tier parliament“.

Assured of sincerity

Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė, an elder of the Seimas Conservative group, told the programme „Not for the Press“ that the ruling coalition has a majority, but it is fragile: „The reality is what it is, but we will make every effort to make sure that the most important decisions for our country are adopted.“

The politician also insisted that the ruling party was sincere in its efforts to remove obstacles to communication with the opposition and to listen to its proposals.

„Today, we did not draw any red lines but rather exchanged views. Of course, not everything is decided in the Seimas. We need to be in close contact with the Government, which sees the bigger picture of rising prices, and the consequences of inflation, and we don't want to get into more trouble.

But we agreed that we could and should talk. It is still difficult to say which of the opposition's proposals may become flesh. I just don't want it to become a kind of blackmail,“ said Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė.

The number of requests is growing

The opposition's demands on the ruling party are growing by the day.

The Speaker of the Seimas, V.Čmilytė-Nielsen, who is also calling for a vote of confidence, said that the total amount of all the demands amounts to around EUR 1.2 billion.

For example, the opposition promises to register draft laws this week that will include concrete measures to alleviate the plight of the population suffering from record inflation.

„If the ruling party agrees to start a parliamentary discussion in committees on the basis of these drafts, this could be one of the conditions for returning to the Chamber,“ Skvernelis said.

He also mentioned that the draft also contains proposals on the choice of electricity supplier and on reducing excise duties on fuel.

Skvernelis assured that there were no demands to remove projects initiated by the civil union or other ruling parties from the agenda.

Jonas Pinskus, the elder of the Lithuanian Regions group, after the Dialogue Group meeting, also identified demands that had not been heard before. For example, he hinted that in addition to the inflation reduction package, the opposition would like to present a reinvestment package.

At the same time, the Social Democrats proposed to set up a permanent working group in the Seimas on economic and social issues. It could review even some of the reforms already underway.

According to Social Democrat Orinta Leiputė, if such a group were to be set up, her group would seriously consider returning to the Seimas.

Those who were left alone also clashed

By the way, there are even jokes behind the scenes in the Seimas that the opposition, which boycotts the sittings, is becoming a bit like Vladimir Putin, who is bogged down in Ukraine, and that the ruling party should find a way for it to end the conflict while „saving face“.

However, Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė avoided talking about any compromise. She was even very sceptical about the possibility that the ruling party might take the seat of Minister Navickas under its control.

The conservative believes that the opposition could „save face“ by returning to the Seimas chamber and voting on the energy bills, as well as on the bills related to the municipal elections.

There are fears that the politicians in the spring session may not be able to pass the Electoral Code and the new mandate of directly elected mayors. This leaves unclear how next year's municipal elections will be conducted.

By the way, last week, the ruling party even managed to clash over the mayoral mandate when it was left alone, without opposition representatives.

For example, several proposals by Andrius Vyšniauskas, which were rejected by the Committee on State Governance and Local Government, were approved in the Seimas after a debate, essentially on the basis of conservative votes.

The conservative proposed to limit the powers of mayors by allowing the council to dismiss vice-mayors appointed by the mayor, as well as to legalise the council secretariat.

In the programme „Not for the Press“, Juška did not hide his annoyance that Vyšniauskas tried to take advantage of the situation when the opposition was not present in the Seimas: „This kind of trickery is insulting. This is why I have asked for a break, and I very much hope that a law will be adopted that will satisfy everyone.“

The alternative is vague

The turmoil in the Seimas has again fuelled talk of a possible collapse of the ruling coalition and the formation of a new one.

Many eyes are focused on a few members of the Liberal Movement group, who often vote differently from the majority.

According to Skvernelis, some of the Government's decisions are not understood not only by some liberals but also by conservatives: „There are theoretical possibilities for the formation of a new coalition, but it is difficult to talk about an alternative as long as there are disagreements in the opposition itself.“

This is an indirect confirmation of the rumours that any initiatives by the opposition parties to destroy the current majority is being extinguished by the leader of the Peasants, Ramūnas Karbauskis.

It is said that he is urging the Peasants in the Seimas to continue to rebel, but he does not see any possibility of any joint action with Skvernelis and other former political associates.

However, Mazuronis did not rule out the collapse of the current coalition: „The current situation may end up with another majority being formed by September, despite what Karbauskis is saying.“

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