Šimonytė's unexpected statement – in the eyes of experts: 'This is a continuing political disaster'

Although political analysts were not surprised by the vote in the Seimas on early parliamentary elections initiated by the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) that did not even pass the first bar, the eyebrows were raised by the brief comment made by Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė to the media after the vote.

Ingrida Šimonytė, Gabrielius Landsbergis.<br>Andriaus Ufarto (ELTA) nuotr.
Ingrida Šimonytė, Gabrielius Landsbergis.<br>Andriaus Ufarto (ELTA) nuotr.
Daugiau nuotraukų (1)


2023-06-07 17:58

Having previously stated that if the Seimas did not agree to concede and call early elections, the government would retreat, the Prime Minister now took a step back, stating that the TS-LKD Presidium would take further decisions.

However, although experts see this manoeuvre by the Prime Minister as preserving stability in the political arena, which is not a bad thing, they also have bad news for Šimonyte herself – her credibility among voters will be significantly diminished.

„Indeed, it could be said that political solidity and credibility have been lost if there was much of it left over the last few weeks,“ said Ignas Kalpokas, an associate professor at Vytautas Magnus University.

And he described the posture shown by conservative leader Gabrielius Landsbergis in the face of this political crisis as being „below the level of criticism“.

„Must have lost his temper“

Commenting on the outcome of the early voting, Gabrielė Burbulytė-Tsiskarishvili, a political scientist at the University of Klaipėda (KU), noted that the opinions of some politicians had been very carefully calculated.

„Technically speaking, the vote failed, but if we look at the proportions, the opinions in the Seimas are, as predicted, very close. We can see that the opinion of the parliamentarians themselves and of the political forces is very fragile.

But this is probably to be expected because after the first emotion has subsided, it seems to me that today all the political forces have actually voted, not only in terms of their potential votes but, most of all, they have calculated their chances in September, if there were elections in September.

How many votes they could have got, of course, depends on where one or other political force stands in the rankings. And, it seems to me, if we analyse the voting not through individual members of the Seimas, but through blocs of political forces, it is very clearly visible,“ the political scientist explained to lrytas.lt.

When asked how she assesses Šimonytė's hints about the fact that the government will not necessarily retreat in case of early elections to the Seimas, Burbulytė-Tsiskarishvili pointed to a big change in the rhetoric of the Conservative leadership.

„There was a possibility – there are many political scenarios, and certainly none can be ruled out. The rhetoric has changed very markedly – let's remember the first days when the nature of the speech and the tone itself was really quite harsh.

Today, we see a much calmer reaction, not only in terms of content but also in terms of tone and emotion,“ the specialist emphasised.

According to the KU political scientist, what Šimonytė herself said in the Seimas on Tuesday is something that many people would have liked to have heard, not now, but at the very beginning of these events.

„It is one thing that the prime minister has his say, but the prime minister, as the prime minister herself has said, is not a person who is in that position by himself. He is delegated by both the party and the coalition, and it is necessary to consider the team's opinion.

This has not been done, and therefore what we are seeing today, these statements by the Prime Minister, allow me, personally at least, to see the first statements after that legendary Friday not as a well-thought-out and measured strategy but as a kind of outpouring of emotions.

From what both the party chairman and the prime minister are saying, the emotion with which they are speaking, the content of their speeches, it certainly suggests that there was probably a rehearsal,“ Burbulytė-Tsiskarishvili assessed.

Asked to consider what could be next for the government, the political scientist gave several possible scenarios.

„One is that the Presidium decides that the Prime Minister needs to resign, the other is that it's not worth it after all and that surely the majority of the ruling party should have a higher say.

On the less predictable side, what could happen is whether or not, if this step were to be taken – that is, not to dismiss the Prime Minister – whether or not, and to what extent, the Government would be overburdened. This is, I would say, the least predictable question.

It is difficult to answer for the time being because even today in the parliament, the party leader used the terms ritual sacrifice and lambs, so it remains a question mark whether there would be a decision to overload the government to some extent,“ said G. Burbulytė-Tsiskarishvili.

Should Landsbergis retreat?

When asked how he assessed the democracy celebration that took place at the Seimas on Tuesday, VMU associate professor I. Kalpokas smiled and assured that it was interesting.

„On the one hand, what could have been predicted happened. We have been talking about the fact that there would be no early elections for some time. This part could have been predicted, as well as the fact that the Conservative group was actually very disunited, while the coalition partners were very united,“ Kalpokas commented to lrytas.lt portal.

He said that the biggest surprise of the day was the confession of Prime Minister Šimonytė.

„There is indeed a certain surprise of the day because it really seemed that the words were firmly spoken and the position taken very clearly that there is really no turning back – if there are no early elections, the government will collapse, and we will have a period of political instability.

But now, it seems that from that lack of unity within the party and the very clearly demonstrated position of the coalition partners, it has been seen that there is probably no other way out and no alternative and that we need to look for a way back around it, whether it is the party praesidium or some other tool, where we can say: well, they are not allowing Mrs Šimonytė to leave, because she would really like to anyway.

The political scientist said these twists and turns are the most interesting aspect of the day“.

However, when asked whether such a change of opinion by Šimonytė would not be compared to similar manoeuvres by Saulius Skvernelis and Ramūnas Karbauskis in the past, Kalpokas also recalled the ability of ex-Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius to change his mind suddenly.

„We also had Prime Minister Butkevičius, who used to say one thing in the morning and another in the evening. The genre itself is not new in Lithuanian politics. In fact, one could say that political solidity and credibility have been lost if there was much left of it in the last few weeks.

It seems to me that this is a continuation of the complete political catastrophe if we are talking about the person of Mrs Šimonytė, which began with the blind defence of Minister Šiugždinienė through really radical statements on the future of the Government. And now, suddenly, it is being withdrawn as if nothing had happened.

This raises questions of trust because even if, on such fundamental issues, that opinion changes and changes completely 180 degrees, how can we accept any word at all for cash?

On the other hand, it shows a certain lack of political coherence or backbone. If things are really catastrophic and you've painted yourself into a corner, the only solid solution was to keep your word in public, but now they are looking for some kind of formal excuse that might prevent you from keeping your word,“ the political scientist said.

He also pointed out that Landsbergis, who may have lost the trust of his comrades after such political chaos, also has something to think about.

„A crisis situation has been created for the whole party. A decision was pushed through which, as was evident, not only divided the parliamentary group but also had very little, if any, support in the wider political organisation.

We have seen both rebellious sections of the party and even Landsbergis's own grandfather, in public letters, calling for a rethink. The question of leadership is really very sensitive in this case because a leader is, by definition, someone who takes an organisation forward, who is able to bring it together rather than divide it and shoot it in the foot.

After all, Landsbergis' communication, even towards the party members, saying that we, those in charge, know what is going on, we see all the things, and you, ordinary party members, do not understand anything here, and do not tell us that we are not doing the right thing, is below criticism from the perspective of leadership,“ said Kalpokas.

The political analyst predicted that all this chaos would most likely end with the conservatives pleading with Šimonytė not to quit. The coalition partners will also continue their cooperation.

„I think that there will be no problems from the coalition partners to continue the cooperation, despite the fact that, again, they were angry with all of them in turn. In the current situation, of course, it may be a bit difficult for Landsbergis and Gentvilas to come to the same table.

But overall, I could certainly imagine a situation where, on the one hand, the coalition partners agree to continue working, and on the other hand, the party itself asks for continuity and thus gives Šimonytė and Landsbergis the opportunity to step back from the situation, while retaining at least some kind of political face.

They will be able to say that we were really determined to retreat, but they didn't let us, the party broke our arms, and we sacrificed ourselves and stayed in power,“ he summarised.

In the Seimas on Tuesday, MPs voted on whether they should step down and call early elections. This proposal by some TS-LKD representatives was not accepted – the Seimas rejected the draft already at the submission stage.

„66 MPs voted in favour of the conservatives' proposal, 61 against, and 8 abstained.

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