Seven Labor MPs break from party, increase ruling coalition's vulnerability

  • 2006-05-03
  • By TBT staff

IT'S ALL GOOD: As a Labor Party veteran, soon-to-be Social Affairs Minister Loreta Grauziniene (left) has the trust and support of party chairman Uspaskich.

VILNIUS - Lithuania's ever-fluid political climate lived up to its reputation this week after seven MPs from the Labor Party split from the faction to create their own group in Parliament. The deputies cited dissatisfaction with party management, particularly chairman and founder Viktor Uspaskich, as the reason for the split. They said they intended to form a new faction, called the Civil Democracy.

So far, three deputies from the Liberal Democratic Party have said they would join Civil Democracy, giving the new formation 10 MPs. The MPs have yet to state whether Civil Democracy would join the opposition, but Vladimir Orechov, one of the seven MPs, said the party would not be in the opposition and would offer constructive support to the government's program.
The exodus reduced the number of seats the ruling coalition enjoys in the legislature to 62, nine below a majority of 71, and again raised the threat of a governmental collapse. Also, the move weakens the strength of the Labor Party vis-a-vis the other two coalition partners, the Social Democrats and the National Farmers' Union.
Uspaskich downplayed the significance of the event, saying it was neither unexpected nor dramatic. "It is their decision, their will. There is no need to dramatize the matter, as the names [of those who left the faction] were known before, it was just a matter of time when it would happen," he told the Baltic News Service.
Uspaskich expressed confidence that the coalition would not suffer due to the deputies' departure, particularly since they have not yet joined the opposition.

Other Labor members were divided on the development. Loreta Grauziniene, a party elder and the designated labor and social affairs minister, said the lawmakers who left the group "do not know what they are doing."
"Maybe some of them did not fully understand the step they took," she added.
Oddly, Parliamentary Chairman Viktoras Muntianas, who is also a Laborite, described the exodus as a "constructive step."
"I believe it is a constructive step because it indicates their concern with the country's future and implementation of the governmental program. I believe this is a good sign and step," he told the Baltic News Service.
For his part, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas is convinced that the minority government can continue working successfully.
"I think the coalition will work. I see a considerable difference between the coalition in Parliament and the coalition in government, as the governmental coalition works on absolutely different bases. We do not politicize, we have to tackle completely different issues," he said on May 2.

Still, the split comes after the most tumultuous month in Lithuanian politics since the impeachment of Rolandas Paksas two years ago, and the Laborites were behind most of the tumult. First they supported the opposition's no-confidence vote against former speaker Arturas Paulauskas, resulting in the latter's ouster, and then the ythreatened to dump the entire coalition unless they were given another ministerial post.
The fragility of the government has sparked conversations of a possible rainbow coalition uniting center-left forces 's i.e., the Social Liberals and the Social Democrats 's and right-wing parties the Homeland Union and the Liberal Centrists' Union. However, many have doubted the viability of any such coalition, and Brazauskas himself has questioned its potential efficacy.
The seven MPs that decided to withdraw from the Labor Party's faction and from the party are Algirdas Ivanauskas, Romas Venclovas, Rimvydas Turcinskas, Juozas Jarusevicius, Jonas Lionginas, Vladimir Orechov, Andrius Baranauskas.
Petras Baguska and Henrikas Zukauskas of the non-affiliated group and Algimantas Matulevicius of the Liberal Democratic faction intend to join the new parliamentary group.