VILNIUS - Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, taking into account the approval of the Seimas, confirmed what everyone has been expecting from her and on Nov. 26 appointed Algirdas Butkevicius to the post of prime minister. The president commissioned Butkevicius to form the government no later than within 15 days and submit it for approval, reports ELTA.
The decree comes into effect as of the date of signature.
Lithuania’s parliament approved of Social Democrat leader Algirdas Butkevicius’ candidacy to the prime minister’s post on Nov. 22; he was nominated by President Dalia Grybauskaite. His candidacy was supported by 90 votes in favor, 40 MPs were against with 4 abstentions.
The leader of the Social Democratic Party Algirdas Butkevicius, upon receiving the approval of the Seimas for his candidacy to the post of prime minister last week, said that he feels a great responsibility towards the people of Lithuania and that he promises not to disappoint them.
“It is hard to describe the feelings, probably because there were no such feelings in my life before, although there were a variety of feelings and I had to try out and live through many things. I have to say that I feel extremely great responsibility because I have been trusted; on the other hand I feel great responsibility towards the people of Lithuania. I hope not to disappoint them and I will try to implement tangible measures which would show a real change in our country,” said Butkevicius after the favorable Seimas vote.
Promoting a forward-thinking agenda, Butkevicius continued, that “As a person I do not want to refer to the past, I only have to think about Lithuania’s future (…) I can see Lithuania taking two roads: the road of the elite and the road of ordinary people who are now forgotten. One should go to rural areas, village libraries, village culture centers where people work for 400 litas (116 euros) a month.”
Nomination not smooth sailing
It was Parliamentary group Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) who unanimously decided to oppose the nomination of Butkevicius as prime minister, said Elder of the TS-LKD Jurgis Razma. “Unfortunately, we have to say that he is a poor candidate for prime minister, little familiar with the current situation in the state, with what the outgoing government has done. We are especially worried about the desperate desire to implement those very loudly announced plans of a minimum monthly wage increase, but it is going to be done at the expense of social support, social benefits cut,” said Razma.Lithuania’s current ambassador in Minsk, Linas Linkevicius, will be proposed for the post of the foreign minister; MP Juozas Olekas to the post of the national defense minister, and MP Rimantas Sinkevicius to the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
During the pre-voting discussion in Seimas, the political groups the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) and the Liberals’ Union were most vocal, while representatives of the ruling majority did not spare compliments for Butkevicius and expressed their support for him.
Butkevicius said that the Seimas opposition was speculating on the questions of the minimum monthly wage (MMW) increase and welfare issues and were intimidating people. He affirmed that people who struggle the most will not be harmed.
“Speaking of an MMW increase which is essential today, I want to emphasize that the new government does not intend to take away benefits and compensation from the poorest section of Lithuania’s population. Those who receive the benefits that they are entitled to will continue to receive them. We propose to increase MMW to 1,000 litas. It means that once MMW is increased, the real income will grow and then there will be no need to pay for these people certain compensation or benefits,” said Butkevicius.
Speculation on Cabinet picks
Butkevicius did not reveal the candidates of the Labor Party for the ministerial posts at the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Culture. Although, he says, one candidate will be a non-party person. “A certain discussion about the Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Culture took place, but no particular people were named. It was said that a party member will assume the post of Agriculture Minister and a non-party candidate will lead the Culture Ministry,” said Butkevicius last week.
Butkevicius confirmed that the Labor Party suggested Loreta Grauziniene for the office of Minister of Social Security and Labor and Virginia Baltraitiene for the Minister of Education and Science.
Leader of the Labor Party Viktor Uspaskich also did not disclose the names of possible candidates for the ministerial posts, but he assured that certainly there were candidates. Uspaskich hopes that the country’s president will approve of the Labor Party candidates proposed for the ministers.
There are two candidates for the Ministry of Justice - Social Democrat MPs Julius Sabatauskas and Juozas Bernatonis. Butkevicius has not revealed a candidate to rule the Health Ministry as discussions are still ongoing.
The new prime minister says that the most likely candidate to become the minister of finance is Rimantas Sazdius, as there are no others in the race. Though former Minister of Finance Sazdius is criticized for not warning the public about the upcoming financial crisis several years ago, Butkevicius said that “Sadzius has improved a lot.”
He also said that the party Order and Justice will propose MP Valentinas Mazuronis to head the Ministry of Environment and MP Remigijus Zemaitaitis to the Ministry of the Interior. He said that so far he has not received a list of candidate ministers delegated by the Labor Party.
Butkevicius also confirmed that the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (LLRA) will be commanding the Ministry of Energy with Jaroslav Neverovic as a candidate minister.
Before Butkevicius’ approval, he confirmed that President Grybauskaite was not categorically demanding that all ministers delegated to the Cabinet by the Labor Party would be non-party. “There were no categorical demands. We had a very good conversation,” Butkevicius said after a meeting with the president.
Meanwhile, Uspaskich said he would send “the best ministers” to the new government. According to him, the Labor Party has both party and non-party candidates for the posts of the ministers.
“We will definitely suggest the best ministers so that everybody would like them,” Uspaskich said.
Though he did not want to name or comment on possible candidates, he did say that his party had “about 10 persons” who could become ministers of the new government.
New leader in Seimas
Vydas Gedvilas (53) of the Labor Party, who was elected the new speaker of the Seimas, says that it is sa great honor, but also a huge responsibility. “It is a great honor to become speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, but also a huge responsibility; therefore, I feel very responsible. I am aware of the challenge life has brought me,” said Gedvilas.
Firstly, the head of the new Parliament will form the Seimas board. Gedvilas promised to give enough offices to the opposition. On Nov. 16, in a secret vote, the candidate was supported by 84 MPs, while 49 were against.
Gedvilas was the only candidate as no other candidates were proposed to assume the post.
Ahead of the Seimas vote for prime minister, Butkevicius discussed future policy, touching on the planned construction of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal. He asserted that it is one of the country’s most important energy projects and has to be implemented as soon as possible.
“It is one of the most important strategic energy projects in Lithuania and the goal is to build the LNG as soon as possible in order to get natural gas from other suppliers,” said Butkevicius in a delfi.lt conference.
Butkevicius said that the Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) is not beneficial to Lithuania and he denies that the Social Democrats have ever campaigned for the construction of the NPP.
“Such legislation has been considered for up to two years in Europe, while in Lithuania it was done within two months. (…) Only the impact on the economy during construction was discussed, but there are no estimates available about the financial burden after when the taken loans will have to be repaid and what will be the cost of electricity production,” said Butkevicius.