It’s easy to announce the creation of a party or movement but actually making it happen is another story. This banal truth has once again been proved right by the quarrels related to the organization of the Lithuanian List Party, Kestutis Girnius wrote in on July 9 in alfa.lt. If a month ago it seemed that it would be possible to create a united, wide-range movement, then now we have three different groups in conflict. This doesn’t mean that they have separated from one another completely or that they won’t be able to cooperate. But such a rapid division brings doubt regarding the protest movement’s capabilities to participate actively in the elections.
During a press conference on Monday (July 2), the founders of the Path of Courage Party and representatives of other organizations introduced a primary list of 14 candidates called the Lithuanian List. Only two candidates belong to the Path of Courage Party, the others – to various public organizations.
The party plans to give priorities to fighting crime, reorganization of law enforcement, police, and court systems, making the state finances more transparent. Three days later, another political party was founded – the Lithuanian List. A few dozens of people – but with more than 1500 of authorizations – came to the constituent meeting at Daukantas Square. They confirmed the party’s articles of association, board, elected Darius Kuolys as the party leader but didn’t announce the list of members. Kuolys said that the new party would cooperate with the Path of Courage but try to create a wider, non-one-party movement.
Obviously, there’s some friction between the supporters of the Lithuanian List. Otherwise, we would have had only one event, not two; we would have got an explanation about the connection between the List and the Path of Courage, the harmonization of the announcement of candidates, etc. Maybe the traditional antipathy and mistrust between Vilnius and Kaunas, the Path of Courage’s hurry to announce its candidates without harmonizing this step with potential companions fuelled the quarrel. Most probably, more serious reasons were involved. Some express concern that the prominence given to the Garliava and Kedžiai story will draw the attention from more important issues, hinder the attempts to create a wider, more ambitious movement. The motives of some participants are raising doubt as well – are they more interested in their political career and getting into the Seimas or in the reformation of law enforcement and courts, and the strengthening of citizen rights?
Those interested in their career want to create a list as soon as possible and take the top position in it. There’s yet another group – the movement For Lithuania in Lithuania. On Thursday (5 July), one of its leaders Romualdas Ozolas criticised the Path of Courage and Kuolys’s public activists. Supposedly, now that the Path of Courage began working in the name of the Lithuanian List, the possibility of forming a united national front has decreased. Ozolas claimed that the front, uniting anti-corruption and anti-clan powers would be even more divided if Kuolys created his party – and he did just that.
Kuolys had rejected Ozolas’s criticism beforehand. According to the historian, the matter of the issue is simple: either the goal is the majority at the Seimas or breaking the 5% limit and being in the opposition. He made it clear that Ozolas and his supporters gave preference to the second goal “and see all who could contribute to a wider movement as undesirable competitors”.
So, we have three groups: the Path of Courage, whose core consists of Kedys’s supporters, Kuolys’s public activists and intelligentsia, dreaming of wide-scale reforms, and Ozolas’s national union For Lithuania in Lithuania. We can also mention that some organizers of the first meetings, i.e., Alvydas Medalinskas and Bronius Genzelis, no longer take part in the events, though it’s not clear if their withdrawal is only temporary. It’s easy to criticize the Government and current situation – all traditional opposition parties and new movements do this. Even though the points vary and different issues are indicated, everyone is painting Lithuania’s future in black colours. But what positive and specific things can new groups offer? Even at best circumstances these groups would have a difficult time agreeing on a programme. On 6 June, Kuolys and Valdas Vasiliauskas declared about a new public movement – For Lithuania’s Nation. I guess I’ll be right by saying that to Ozolas the concept of ‘Lithuania’s nation’ is an oxymoron. There’s the ‘nation of Lithuanians’ and the ‘citizens of Lithuania’ but not ‘Lithuania’s nation’. This is the principal difference and it will be difficult to make things right after the latest quarrels. I suspect any cooperation to be superficial.
There are no clear idea-based differences between the Path of Courage and public activists but there also are no greater, especially personal, common things. Garliava and Vilnius intelligentsia do not belong to two separate worlds but given normal circumstances Kedys’s followers and public activists wouldn’t even recognize each other in the street. Getting closer is impossible without mediators. Some public activists played this role temporary but the non-harmonized announcement of the list shows that the mediators need mediators, apparently. Political success is impossible without closer cooperation, and that’s something we’ve yet to see. Most probably, For Lithuania in Lithuania will continue on their own. Garliava’s capabilities are limited as well. Nijolė Oželytė said that it wasn’t right to create a party based on a single, albeit resonant, event. We can add that the perspectives of such a party are poor. So far, Kuolys’s wing hasn’t managed to mobilize wider support. The intelligentsia are more inclined to voicing their opinion rather than working hard to organize the party’s activities which is essential for successful competition in the political arena. Not only nostalgic implications about the Sąjūdis movement, which will never be revived, raise doubts but also the plans to supervise the elected politicians after the elections. A similar suggestion was voiced in 1990 by Arvydas Juozaitis but the winners didn’t give in to the supervision by outsiders.
The creation of a political party or movement isn’t a matter of weeks or months, but years. It’s unrealistic to expect a quick victory without hard work and effort. It’s unclear whether the new powers will have the required determination and endurance to continue after the election, especially an unsuccessful one.