Center-right coalition to lead Lithuania

  • 2008-10-29
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

ALL FOR ONE: From Left to Right: Arturas Zuokas of the Liberal and Center Union, Arunas Valinskas of the Ressurection Party, Andrius Kubilius of the Homeland Union - Christian Democrats, Gintaras Stepanavičius of the Liberal Movement. The four leaders signed an agreement on forming the new ruling coalition following the Oct. 26 run-off elections.

VILNIUS - The leaders of four of Lithuania's center-right parties have signed an agreement outlining the formation of a new ruling coalition led by the Homeland Union- Lithuanian Christian Democrats.
Andrius Kubilius, leader of the conservative Homeland Union- Lithuanian Christian Democrats, said that he is ready to form a new government after his party's overwhelming victory in the Oct. 26 parliamentary election run-offs.

Kubilius, who was prime minister in 1999 and 2000, will now return as the head of the first Homeland Union-led government in almost 10 years.
"Today we signed a pledge to make an agreement. I'm sure that we will do it very soon," Kubilius said in the joint press conference of four parties' leaders after the signing ceremony.
During the second round of voting, the Homeland Union collected an additional 27 mandates. Their final result is 45 seats out of 141 in the Seimas (Lithuanian parliament). The rest of parliament will be composed of the Social Democrats with 25 seats, the National Resurrection Party with 16, the Order and Justice party with 15, the Liberal Union with 11, the Labor Party with 10, the Liberal and Center Union at eight, the Polish Electoral Action party at three, the Peasants' Union at three, the Social Liberals with one, and four seats are to go to independent candidates.

The new ruling coalition talks quickly produced results. On Oct. 27, just one day after the elections, four party leaders 's Kubilius of the Homeland Union, Arunas Valinskas of the National Resurrection Party, Eligijus Masiulis of the Liberal Union, and Arturas Zuokas of the Liberal and Center Union 's signed a preliminary cooperation agreement.
The three smaller partners agreed that the Homeland Union will occupy the post of prime minister. These four parties will have the majority in parliament with a total of 79 seats out of 141.
The majority is expected to grow slightly due to the migration of some MPs from other factions to the ruling coalition. On the day following the election, one newly elected independent MP announced that he would join the National Resurrection Party's parliamentary faction, while another said he would join the Liberal and Center Union faction.

"We will be the second largest [party] in the coalition. So, we have a right of initiative to propose a person for the parliament chairman," Valinskas said during a press conference. He refused to deny or confirm that he is ready to occupy the post himself.
In the preliminary cooperation agreement, four parties' leaders criticized the current draft budget prepared by the Social Democrat-led government of Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas. The agreement's text criticizes the draft budget for public overspending and promised to fight the budget deficit by making corrections in the draft.
The draft budget includes a deficit of 2.639 billion litas (764.3 million euros) for 2009. This amounts to 2.3 percent of the projected gross domestic product. The European Union financial regulations allow a budget deficit of up to 3 percent of a country's GDP.
"I don't see a problem here. The budget should be adopted by the new parliament, not by the current one. We will stay in the constructive opposition," Kirkilas said in a press conference on Oct. 27.
The Homeland Union wants to solve problems with budget revenues by abolishing exemptions to the VAT and all other taxes. The measure would contribute to the state budget by up to 2 billion litas (580 million euros), according to the Homeland Union.

The new coalition also wants to decrease spending on state bureaucracy. This decrease could result in another 2 billion litas or even more. Kubilius also spoke about his intention to lower income tax, which now is 24 percent, if the step would have no significant negative influence on the state budget. He also said that he will seek consensus on economic issues with all the political parties represented in the parliament.
Viktor Uspaskich, leader of the Labor Party, said that he shares the views presented by the new center-right ruling coalition. He said that his party will not be in the opposition to this new ruling coalition and Labor will support the Kubilius-led government in the parliament, though Labor will not be a member of the ruling coalition.

This move was welcomed by Vytautas Landsbergis, member of the European Parliament, founding father of the Homeland Union, and chairman of the Lithuanian parliament when Lithuania proclaimed it's independence in 1990.
Kubilius said that his party will definitely take ministerial posts in the two major ministries 's defense and foreign affairs. Landsbergis is one of the candidates to occupy the post of foreign minister.
"Speaking about foreign policy, I don't think that you can find fundamental differences among Lithuanian political parties. The Lithuanian foreign policy is on the Euro-Atlantic railway line and we are in favor of this policy's continuation. We think that it should be a consensus among parties about the Euro-Atlantic policy," Valinskas told TBT.

He said his party wants three portfolios of ministers in the new government, but named only the justice ministry. His party's nominees to posts of ministers are not expected to be his party's MPs.
Valinskas, well-known in Lithuania as host of TV humor and song shows, stood by his election promises to seek a reduction of number of MPs in the parliament 's which would require constitutional change 's to minimize salaries of MPs to the level of an average retirement pension in Lithuania and to limit possibility for parliamentary faction change for those MPs who are elected from the party lists (70 MPs out of 141), leaving that right only to those who are elected in individual constituencies (71 MPs).

"We promised to raise these questions in the parliament and we will do it. However, it will be up to majority of MPs to approve it or not. We'll also propose a law which would forbid for MPs who are elected from the party lists to switch their political faction in the parliament which was a common practice during the previous years," he told TBT.
The newly elected parliament will gather for its first session in the middle of November. The official procedure of creation of the new government will start with the first session.