Where is Lithuania’s ruling Homeland Union headed to?

  • 2023-07-20
  • Vytautas Dumbliauskas

As for the current governing coalition, it should be remembered that it is the second time that the phenomenon of the unexpected coalition participant is at work. After the 2008 parliamentary elections, the Nation’s Resurrection Party, which was created six months before the parliamentary elections and whose election campaign was viewed with some humor, as the campaign itself was designed to be a fun event, unexpectedly appeared in parliament. However, on a more serious note, it is clear that without this entertaining party created by representatives of the entertainment world, the Homeland Union, the Liberal Movement and the Union of Liberals and Centre would not have been able to form a governing coalition.

The same thing happened after the 2020 parliamentary elections, when the Freedom Party appeared in the Parliament, the Seimas. In the election campaign, it was seen as a splinter from the Liberal Movement, with few predictions for particular success.

The elections showed that this party, created by young people (both young politicians and newcomers to politics), attracted young voters and performed better than the Liberal Movement (107 000 votes against 80 000 in the multi-member constituency). More importantly, however, it enabled the Christian Democrats and the Liberals to form a governing coalition. The question is: is it just a coincidence that for the second time in the history of modern Lithuania, a party that has suddenly appeared unexpectedly is helping the Homeland Union to become a ruling party?

If we look at it from the point of view of the Homeland Union, such an alliance with newcomers to politics was and is a bit of a headache – it was not easy to work in a coalition with the Nation's Resurrection Party, and it was not easy to work in a coalition with the Freedom Party either. In the latter case, it may be primarily because the "freedomists" came to the Seimas with promises to the electorate that not all Christian Democrats can approve of. The decriminalization of soft drugs and gender-neutral partnerships are issues for which Lithuanian society itself is not yet ready. This unpreparedness is well illustrated by the Freedom Party's ratings - for a long time now, in surveys conducted by various sociological firms, the party's ratings have been hovering around two percent, which means that the party is unlikely to get into the next Lithuanian Parliament, the Seimas, and will go down in history as a single-term party.

From the point of view of the other coalition partners, some of the actions of the Homeland Union are surprising. I would like to mention one of the last public criticisms in respect of the Christian Democrats by the partners – that the Christian Democrats did not consult with them in the preparation of the tax reform.

The ruling coalition seems to be quite fragile. Maybe that is why Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte is not interfering with the composition of the government, even though the public sphere is full of reproaches against many of the ministers. For a long time, Health Minister Arunas Dulkys was at the forefront of the criticism, but he was left alone after the pandemic ended. The management of the pandemic was a constant irritant for a part of the public. Once the irritant was gone, the Minister was forgotten, but the public is still left wondering whether he is doing a good job or a bad job. These days, Mr. Dulkys has caused a minor scandal by saying that he does not know how hospitals will receive the wounded if shelling of our cities starts.

For a long time, the Minister of National Defense Arvydas Anusauskas has been the most appreciated minister in the public eye, which is why the criticism of our national defense system, publicly expressed in March by the former Commander of the US Ground Forces in Europe, General Ben Hodges, was like a thunderbolt from the clear sky. The American general was simply pointing the finger at the gaps in our defense preparedness, which caused me, as a Lithuanian citizen, to have a lot of doubts as to whether my country is adequately prepared for a war that is taking place right next door and that could spill over into our territory at any time. And given the fact that Minister Anusauskas does not attend the meetings of the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defense because he is angry with the Chairman of that committee – Laurynas Kasciunas, it is not clear how to react – whether to laugh or cry.

For some time now, education experts have been raising doubts in the public sphere about the transformation of the education system. Well-known teachers have also expressed their doubts. Reading these texts, one is left with the impression that the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport does not consult the people who call themselves the education community. If this is true, where is our civil society, which could influence the education policy-makers and education bureaucrats who are involved in questionable reforms?

 One could ask the other side of the question: is there only one Jurgita Siugzdiniene in the ruling coalition parties who is an education expert? Is everything going well in the education system in the eyes of the other politicians in these parties?

While the teachers as a professional group have so far raised only polite doubts, the farmers are unequivocally demanding the resignation or dismissal of the Minister of Agriculture Kestutis Navickas. It seems that the Minister is not going to resign, just as the Prime Minister is not going to dismiss him.

In this case, one might wonder why Simonyte is not renewing the composition of the government. After all, the resignation of a minister is a political act, not just for its own sake, but with a view to the political future of both the party and the politician in question. The value of both the party and the politician is measured in terms of electoral votes received in the elections. If a politician in a ministerial post annoys the professional group whose problems he is supposed to be solving, how valuable will he be in a regular election?

This would mean that Simonyte is not thinking about her political future. First of all, she is thinking about her own – there have already been thoughts in the public space that maybe she should end her political career after this term. But then what about the future of the party? What about the rumors that she will run for the post of Chairman of the Homeland Union next year?