Brazauskas makes a political comeback

  • 2000-05-11
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - After a two-year silence, Former-President Algirdas Brazausksas came out May 3 supporting a newly emerged left wing electoral bloc, stirring speculations about the a political comeback by the former president. Leftist leaders are not hiding their happiness.

On April 29 the Democratic Labor Party and the Social Democratic Party announced a plan for a common electoral list for parliamentary elections due Oct. 8.

On May 3 Brazauskas released a statement supporting this coalition. The former head of state said the ruling Conservative Party is damaging the national economy and impoverishing the people. He blamed it for "politicized" privatization and the highest rate of unemployment since independence.

Brazauskas said most European Union countries are currently led by "social democratic forces," and Lithuania should follow this track. He asked the media not to call the newly emerged bloc as "leftists," arguing that this word has a bad reputation in Lithuania because of historic memories.

Brazauskas led the independent Lithuanian Communist Party, later called the Democratic Labor Party, until 1993 when he was elected president of Lithuania. He retired from politics after the end of his presidency in 1998. Since then, ordinary people have known more about a Brazauskas safari hunt in South Africa than about his political views.

Left wing leaders have hailed his statement.

"Gold is shining even in the ashes. And we are not ashes," said Ceslovas Jursenas, current leader of the Democratic Labor Party.

However, Brazauskas made no promises to join the list of candidates for Parliament from the new left. Describing himself as "a freelance politician," he did say thoughb that he would campaign for his old party.

"The fears of the return of 'leftist' forces, including 'Communists,' who will allegedly drag Lithuania to Russia and stop its EU and NATO bids, show the primitive understanding and political propaganda waged by some individuals who call themselves politicians," Brazauskas told radio station Ziniu Radijas.

Brazauskas wrote in his May 3 statement that the coalition of the Social Democrats and the Labor Democratic Party would draw together politicians concerned about poverty, unemployment and other social problems. He held out the prospect of cooperation with centrist forces such as the Center Union, the New Union (Social Liberals) and the New Democracy Party, formerly the Women's Party.

But, these three parties rejected the offer and are close to forming their own centrist bloc.

Of course, not everybody is happy with the new alliance. Conservative MP Rasa Jukneviciene said that the comeback of Brazauskas is due to the wishes of certain businessmen close to the Democratic Labor Party, who want political power.

And not all politicians calling themselves "social democrats" are happy either. Leaders of the Social Democracy 2000 Party, offspring of the Social Democratic Party, have rejected Brazauskas' appeals.

"The Democratic Labor Party has its roots in the Lithuanian Communist Party. There are former ideologists of the Central Committee of the Communist Party among them. There is strong opposition inside the Social Democratic Party against the current coalition with the Democratic Labor Party. Some already have left the Social Democratic Party for our party," said Jonas Valatka, MP of Party Social Democracy 2000.

Valatka went to on to describe the new alliance as "a force created just for taking power." He claimed that when the Democratic Labor Party was in power from 1992 to 1996, their policies were not social democratic, but geared to work for big capitalists, and they were just adopting the tag now to gain from popular dislike of the Conservatives.