VILNIUS - Last week, the Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats handed an official invitation to the Labor Party of Viktor Uspaskich to join the ruling center-right coalition. This move was caused by the shrinking number of center-ruling MPs.
It could be a shock for the electorate of the Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats. This biggest ruling center-right party has always described the Labor Party as being pro-Russian and populist. In fact, the Labor Party never said a single bad word about NATO, EU, Lithuanian foreign and defense policy and Lithuanian interior policy on ethnic issues. Uspaskich is the only Russian-born person in this party's leadership. However, in the early 1990s, multi-millionaire Uspaskich, founder and leader of the Labor Party, did make his first million being a Lithuanian intermediary trader in gas, with Russia's Gazprom.
In 2006, the Labor Party was accused by the Prosecutor General Office of financial wrongdoings. The party was allegedly financed with undeclared money. Uspaskich denies the accusation. Since prosecutors started their investigation, he has been living in Russia for some time which made the prosecutors' work difficult. In June, he was elected to the European Parliament. He is a member of the Liberal faction there. The Lithuanian Prosecutor Office's investigation into his party's finances is pending and Uspaskich is in danger of losing his seat in the European Parliament because of it.
"We have 72 seats left out of the previous 84 [there are 141 seats in the Lithuanian parliament]. We can pass our decisions anyway. However, it would be easier if we could find a common language with some parties which are in opposition now," Andrius Kubilius, prime minister and leader of the Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats, said during his briefing on Oct. 23.
The shrinking of the ruling coalition is due to the hesitation of the Laimontas Dinius-led 10 MPs of the United Lithuania faction concerning staying in the ruling center-right coalition. Dinius' group broke with the Arunas Valinskas-led National Resurrection Party. Now, MPs of the United Lithuania faction are negotiating creation of a joint political party with the Christian Conservative Social Union of former Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius, harsh critic of the current government policy. His party has no seats in the parliament.
On Oct. 23, Uspaskich returned from Brussels to participate in the sitting of his party's presidium. A final decision was not made though the proposal regarding joining of the ruling coalition was not rejected. "We will prepare our proposals on the government's new program. If they are accepted, we will support the new coalition. I'm doubtful that we will seek some posts," Uspaskich said at his press conference after the sitting of his party's presidium.
In summer, the ruling coalition showed no interest in the suggestion by Algirdas Butkevicius, leader of the opposition Social Democrats, to create a wide-range "rainbow" coalition. In 2004, Liberal Centrist MP Vytautas Bogusis described the then center-left coalition, including the Labor Party, as the "northern lights" coalition because of participation of the North Russia-born Uspaskich.
This coming December the now ruling center-right coalition will need to pass the controversial budget for 2010 through a parliamentary vote. The failure of such a vote seems to be less worrisome for Kubilius than is the creation of the new coalition of "northern lights."