Swing right into experienced hands

  • 2004-10-27
  • By Milda Seputyte
It is all too common that voter allegiance typically sways back and forth from election to election, kicking out the powers-that-be and ushering in the opposition. In Lithuania, this meant the right-wing parties such as the Homeland Union and the Liberal/Centrists were poised to gain big in this week's poll. Lo and behold, they did. And this put Andrius Kubilius, head of the Homeland Union (the Conservatives), in a strong bargaining position vis-a-vis the ruling center-left parties. But, as he explained to The Baltic Times on Oct. 26, nothing is guaranteed when dealing with the leftists.

How do you view the results of the Homeland Union?

We think that the election was really good for us because we have doubled [our numbers]. We'd like to continue this way in the next election (smiles). In general, we could say that the victory belongs to the right-wing since out of all three groups - the Labor Party, Social Democrats and Social Liberals, and the Homeland Union and the Liberals - we've gathered the most votes.

After the second round you said that, due to extreme ideological differences, the Conser-vatives might stay out of a rainbow coalition. Why is it that you, having been the most active proponent for the rainbow coalition after the first round, are now implying that the Conservatives could stay in the opposition?

We repeated several times that we see the possibility of forming a wide spectrum coalition. However, at the same time we are not dashing to power at all costs. One of the most important things is to agree on a precise list of duties that the government would have to accomplish. With a wide spectrum, it would be very difficult to continue working; one party in the government can modify the program in the process. In this case, we might have fewer discussions afterward and fewer possibilities to agree later on.

It's obvious that voters expressed confidence in us, which is also a great responsibility. In order to implement the responsibility we must have certain political leverage in the coalition.

We think that the negotiations must be based on some regulations and not blackmailing. We have clearly said that statements such as "if you don't comply with our requirements, we will switch to the Labor Party" would not affect us. These are fruitless efforts to flap your wings, hoping that we will get scared and say, "No, don't do this - we surrender!"

The behavior seems a bit childish. Apparently they [the SocDem/SocLibs] need some time to come back down to earth.

Just to make it clear: Do you oppose the stubborn demands of the Social Democrats or the candidacy of PM Algirdas Brazauskas?

No. First we want to agree on the negotiation rules. If the negotiations are based on ultimatums and blackmailing, we will wait before they rediscover a different perception. We are in no rush.

I also find it unacceptable when one party tries to negotiate with two oppositional forces simultaneously. Standing in the middle and waiting for the best offer from both sides is also unheard of. If the Social Democrats want to continue their negotiations with the Labor Party, we could simply wait for them to finish.

In your opinion, what would be the most significant aspects in political programs for the four parties to agree on?

We would like to see an actively working government. Of course, when a government is formed in a broad coalition, implementing changes could be rather difficult.

But we do not identify ourselves with a government that would only come to exist. Our main criticism of the Brazauskas-led government is that in certain areas, especially in those that Brussels wasn't pushing, the government was dormant. We're facing great challenges in developing a knowledge economy in Lithuania. We've heard a lot of declarations, but innovations and high technologies remain stepdaughters in the country.

Societal problems also require more attention. The state must stimulate society for [moral] social behavior, because in this area Lithuania is far behind the European average. We're a crowd of loners that provides excellent hunting-ground for populism and leads us to an antipode of civic society.

Also, we'd like to achieve the replacement of the old bureaucracy with the so-called new public administration that would boast strategic planning and benchmarking.We want a clear vision and clear commitments.

Before the election you spoke a lot about the threats posed by the Labor Party to Lithuania. Do you believe that a Viktor Uspaskich in the opposition would remain a threat?

It's difficult to foresee the behavior of new parties. The patterns, however, of similar parties that we've seen - including the one of Vytautas Sustauskas, the popularity of Arturas Paulauskas and Rolandas Paksas - show that the good life ends in one year, when people get tired of admiring leaders.

Some predictions maintain that keeping the Labor Party in the opposition could lead to its break-up. Most people that joined the party had very pragmatic interests that require power levers. If they don't get that in Parliament, they might start searching for other parties. But this largely falls in the realm of prediction that might never come true. and the party could remain influential for a long period - as former Prime Minister of Slovakia Vladimir Mechiar, for instance.

In your opinion, who could be the best candidate to head the rainbow government? Brazauskas has led the longest standing government, perhaps he could be similarly strong in consolidating four parties in the government?

Brazauskas has his advantages and disadvantages. The position is not predestined by God exclusively to Brazauskas. Some try to suggest that he is the only one able to do this. I believe each political party has a good candidate to suit the position. The liberals do; we do too. The prime minister's work requires political wisdom, knowledge and experience. Brazauskas is experienced, but we are experienced too. Both of us have been tested before.

What do you think of rotating prime ministers?

This is another possible solution. Since the right-wing and the left-wing would have similar weight in the coalition, we could look upon the experience of the European Parliament when the left-wing and right-wing agreed to rotate in order to keep prosperous work.