Trying to preserve power

  • 2010-03-03
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

VILNIUS - On Feb. 26, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius met with all three MPs of tiny opposition Peasant Popular Party and its leader, Ramunas Karbauskis, who is not an MP. Karbauskis is a politically active multimillionaire farmer. The sense of the meeting, for Kubilius, was to keep his head above the water as his center-right ruling coalition risks losing its absolute majority in the parliament.

“We agreed to agree, though there is no final agreement,” Kubilius said after the meeting. Karbauskis also demonstrated his goodwill.
“We’ll stay in opposition. In case of non-confidence voting on the government’s job in the parliament, we will vote supporting the government,” Karbauskis said. However, for reaching the final agreement, Kubilius will need to revoke his numerous tax increases from December 2008, on the demands of the Peasant Popular Party. Observers predict that Kubilius will try to negotiate with the ‘peasants’ for as long as possible. The only good news for Kubilius at the moment is the fact that President Dalia Grybauskaite continues to support his government, because she sees no valuable alternative for it to be among the opposition ranks.

Presently Grybauskaite occupies a very special position in Lithuania’s political life. Although only the Lithuanian president is elected in nation-wide elections in the Baltics, while in the other two Baltic states their presidents are elected by the countries’ parliaments, all three Baltic states are more parliamentary democracies than presidential states, according to their constitutions. However, the current center-right ruling coalition in Lithuania, having just 71 MPs out of 141 in the parliament and being at risk of having just 70 MPs in March because of doubts of Liberal Centrist MP Zilvinas Silgalis, is unpopular and weak.

The opposition, which lacks its own ideas and accepts the main idea shared by the ruling coalition, i.e. having high posts for their clans, is unpopular as well. According to the latest survey by the Vilmorus research company, conducted on Feb. 4-8, and published on Feb. 20 by the daily Lietuvos Rytas, Grybauskaite is estimated positively by 82.9 percent of the Lithuanian population while only 6.2 percent regard her negatively. The parliament is estimated positively by 4.8 percent and negatively by 77.2 percent. The weak parliament makes Grybauskaite the strongest player on the political stage of Lithuania. Her support for Kubilius is the main factor for his survival.

According to Rimvydas Valatka, leading columnist of the daily Lietuvos Rytas, the best option for Lithuania now would be the replacement of Kubilius, with Eligijus Masiulis, leader of one of the ruling coalition’s minor partners, the Liberal Movement, thereby keeping the ruling center-right coalition in power. Last week, Masiulis made a statement calling for revoking the tax increases of December 2008. This could take place starting from 2011, and would give a positive impulse to business, according to Masiulis. However, Kubilius rejected Masiulis’ proposals.