Election winners make final deals

  • 2000-10-19
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - Late on Oct. 12, the Liberal Union of Rolandas Paksas, the New Union (Social Liberals) of Arturas Paulauskas, the Center Union of Romualdas Ozolas and the Modern Christian Democratic Union of Vytautas Bogusis signed a coalition agreement. These four parties of the center-right, center and center-left had an oral agreement to form the post-election coalition since the summer. An agreement has now been reached in writing.

Creating a ruling bloc

The victorious four are also known as "the New Policy bloc," which is under the non-official patronage of President Valdas Adamkus. According to the agreement, the Liberal Union will get seven ministerial posts in the new government, leaving another six for the Social Liberals. The Modern Christian Democratic Union and the Center Union will get at least two deputy ministers each.

Paksas is expected to become prime minister while Paulauskas will be a candidate for the post of parliamentary chairman.

With 67 MPs, the New Policy Bloc will have a majority of votes in the Parliament after the Oct. 8 election. The Liberal Union will have 34 seats, the New Union 29. Three MPs will represent the Center Union. The Modern Christian Democratic Union will be represented by one politician who went to the Parliament under the flag of this party (and two members of the same party whose names were on the election lists of the Social Liberals and the Liberals during election).

The New Policy bloc needs several additional supporters in the 141-seat Parliament for a more stable rule. The main task is to secure the support of 71 or more seats, enabling them to enjoy an absolute majority in the Parliament.

Paksas said that the New Policy bloc is very close to agreement on cooperation with the Peasants' Party (four MPs), the Polish Electoral Action (two MPs), and the Christian Democratic Union (one MP). Such agreements would give the liberal coalition an absolute majority in Parliament.

This government would meet with opposition from both left and right. Both the Conservative Party of nine MPs and the Social Democratic Coalition of 51 MPs used the same term speaking about their future position - they promised to be "a constructive opposition."

Overcoming the differences of the Liberals and the Social Liberals

The Social Democratic Coalition and the Conservative Party pointed out the differences in the election programs of the center-right Liberals and the center-left Social Liberals. "It is a soup where everything can be found," Vytautas Landsbergis, leader of the Conservatives, said ironically.

Indeed, on the eve of the elections, the Social Liberals said that 10 percent of the national budget should go to the agriculture sector while the Liberals said that agriculture should be the same part of the free market as the rest of the economy. The Social Liberals were in favor of retaining state control of so-called "natural monopolies" such as railways, while the Liberals did not set any borders for privatization. The Social Liberals said that persons possessing more property should pay more taxes than poorer people. The Liberals are against imposing this sort of taxation.

"Some 80 percent of our program and the program of the Social Liberals is identical and 20 percent is different. We need to compromise on these 20 percent," Paksas said. Paulauskas echoed his words, quoting the same figures.

Margarita Starkeviciute, Lithuania's leading financial expert, said that the new government might be more free-market oriented in its economic policy than the outgoing Conservative Party government. At least one sign of this is already obvious. Paksas and Paulauskas said that they are in favor of legalizing casinos. Gambling is still illegal in Lithuania though it is legal in all four bordering countries.

The liberalism of Paksas and Paulauskas does ,however, have its boundaries. Both leaders say that the legalization of prostitution and marijuana is not on their agenda at the moment.

Continuity of foreign policy

Paksas and Paulauskas said that the priorities of Lithuania's foreign policy would remain the same: Membership in NATO and the European Union as well as good relations with all neighbors, including Russia. At the same time, Paksas said that his government would negotiate with Russia about compensations for the Soviet occupation.

On Oct. 12 all main Lithuanian TV channels showed President Adamkus' address to the nation. Adamkus said that the new Parliament should enable Lithuania to move ahead fast and offer a break from "stagnancy and depression."

"It is time for a giant leap of the country, for the modernization of the state, for the consolidation of Lithuania in the community of Western countries," Adamkus said. He emphasized that here is no doubt of the continuity of Lithuania's foreign policy. Adamkus said that Lithuania had to be ready for NATO membership by 2002.