Lithuanian Peasant-Greens Left All Alone

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The Lithuanian Social Democrats have withdrawn from the governing coalition led by the Peasant-Greens, making it a minority governmnent. Of the three Social Democrats Ministers, only Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius will leave his party to remain in the government. The first test for the minority governemnt will come in early December when the 2018 budget proposal is going to be voted on.

The attempt of Lithuanian Social Democrtats (SD) to make a point did not work out quite as well as they expected. After ten months in power, a junior member of the center-left coalition decided to quit on their ruling partner – the Peasant-Greens party. Allegedly, they felt overlooked and ignored by the bigger party.

There was just one thing the SD did not take into an account – that their lawmakers are actually not so keen on the idea of leaving their seats at the table.

Not So Successful Union

The winner of the Lithuanian elections of 2016 became the center left, enviromentally oriented Peasant Greens party (LVSZ). Gaining 56 out of the 141 seats in the parliament, the LVSZ was looking for a coalition partner. They made an agreement with once major but currently abandoned by their voters social democratic party.

The partnership was, however, far from successful. In recent months, the tensions in the ruling coalition have emerged, with LVSZ complaining about the lack of support from the LSDP. The LSDP, on the other hand, accused the major coalition partner of ignoring LSDP’s proposals. The social democrats claimed they were sidelined over policies in a number of areas – from alcohol age limits to subsidies on central heating.

The LSDP frustration over inattentive partner reached its top last week when they were bypassed by the LVSZ again on the forestry reform they strongly opposed. Prime Minister Saulis Skvernelis decided to look for the support he was lacking from his junior partner somewhere else and sealed opposition support for the reforms of state-owned forestry companies.

Place in the Spotlight

After being stabbed in it, the LSDP decided to turn its back on the LVSZ. The social democrats decided to have a vote on whether to stay or to leave the coalition. The outcome was solid – out of the 195 members, 140 supported the “leave” option. The leadership of the party declared with great pride that they are thus leaving the government.

There was only one problem with this vote – instead of looking at the numbers, the social democrats leadership should have rather looked at the voters themselves. If they would have, they might have found out that among the 55 who preferred staying in power, the member of parliament and government prevailed.

And They Lived Happily Ever After…?

Only two days later, only the social democrats MPs had a vote among themselves. Surprisingly, 10 out of 15 MEPs voted to remain in the alliance, calling the decision to leave the coalition “premature”.

The situation in the government appeared to be rather similar. The current Lithuanian governement has altogether 15 posts, out of which 3 belonged to the Social Democrats. Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius had declared his loyalty to the governing coalition from the very beginning, actually leaving his party just to remain in government. His colleague, the Minister of Justice eventually joined his side.

The ruling party is now facing not such a big challenge as it may have seemed at the very beginning. They have only one post in their government to fill in. The situation in the parliament is a bit more challenging but definitely not hopeless. To secure the majority they need to find six new allied MPs.

The question whether this new, rather shaky, arrangement actually works will be answered soon enough. As mentioned, the new Lithuanian minority government will be put under its first test at the beginning of December when 2018 budget proposal will be put under a vote.

Adela Kleckova
Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom