Vagnorius takes a break

  • 2000-02-24
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS – The Conservative Party continues to hemorrhage. On Feb. 17, former Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius announced that he suspended his membership in the Conservative Party. He was one of the founders and leaders of this party.

The current leadership of the ruling Conservative Party and left opposition MPs said that Vagnorius, one of the most influential Lithuanian politicians in the past, politically marginalized himself by this latest move.

Vagnorius wrote an open statement to the leaders of the Conservative Party. He accused his party of poor economic policy.

"I cannot and do not want to contribute any longer to immoral economic policies launched in summer 1999 with the so called 'cruel financial actions' applied not against organizers of smuggling but millions of our country's citizens," reads Vagnorius' statement. He also accused the current government of "liberalization of shadow economy."

On Feb. 18 Vytautas Landsbergis, Conservative Party chairman and parliamentary chairman, said that he did not see a future for the political career of Vagnorius within the party. Landsbergis suggested that Vagnorius' suspension of membership in the party is tantamount to quitting.

"Vagnorius does not have a single gram of responsibility," Landsbergis said. He accused Vagnorius' former cabinet of worsening the economic situation in the country. Landsbergis said that Vagnorius' current criticism is just a smoke screen for leaving the party and shaking off responsibility.

Christian Democrat MP Kazimieras Kuzminskas said that he does not see a danger in the split of his Conservative Party allies because there are now very few Vagnorius supporters among Conservatives.

Left opposition Democratic Labor MP Justinas Karosas said with irony that he sees no political future for Vagnorius. "Vagnorius made a brave step because this influential politician is virtually stepping out into obscurity," Karosas said.

Vagnorius was prime minister in 1991 – 1992 and again in the fall of 1996 when the Conservative Party won parliamentary elections. Vagnorius resigned on April 30, 1999 when President Valdas Adamkus urged him to step down. Adamkus accused Vagnorius of an arrogant style of ruling the country.

After his resignation, Vagnorius became a critic of the same Conservative Party-led governments of Rolandas Paksas and currently Andrius Kubilius.

Vagnorius especially criticized the promise to close the Ignalina nuclear plant without guarantees from the European Union to finance this closure.

He also criticized his own party for a two-year postponement of compensation to depositors of Taupomasis Bankas. They lost their savings because of huge inflation in the early 1990s. This compensation was one of the main slogans of the Conservative Party during the parliamentary election campaign in 1996.

In both cases of criticism, opposition parties of all colors supported Vagnorius' position. Some Conservative MPs complained that Vagnorius criticized his own party more severely than opposition parties.

The Lithuanian media speculated about the possibility to create a new rightist party from a small number of Vagnorius followers among Conservatives. Landsbergis said that he does not see a justification for such a new party. He claims there is no "ideological background."