Is Economy Minister Kreivys Millstone Around Government’s Neck?

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Pranešk apie klaidą

The discussions about whether Lithuanian Economy Minister Dainius Kreivys should or should not resign have transformed into a political game. Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, who is defending the economy minister, called for a vote of no confidence in the entire cabinet.  Saule Pauliuviene writes in Alfa.lt portal on 3 March. The ruling coalition partners, who have so far been loyal to the Conservatives, are saying that the party leaders should first agree on their positions inside the party because they have lately been unable to agree on what to do with Kreivys (Kreivys submitted his letter of resignation to the Prime Minister on 3 March, the PM has delivered the letter to the President on 14 March) and with the Vilnius mayor post. Even though politicians are saying that whether Kreivys manages to keep his post should not be perceived as a test to find out who – the Presidential Office or the government – is stronger, unofficially, these politicians admit that had Kubilius not yielded to President Dalia Grybauskaite’s request to dismiss the then Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas, the cabinet would have not acquired an image of an executor of the Presidential Office’s will.

“Does the conflict over Kreivys’s actions mean that we are facing a political crisis? It is a good question… I would rather call it a Conservative internal crisis,” Algis Caplikas, elder of the parliamentary United Group of the Liberal and Centre Union (LCS) and the National Revival Party (TPP), said.

Conservative Party Leaders Cannot Reach an Agreement
It is difficult not to notice that the Conservative Party leaders cannot reach an agreement. Seimas Speaker Irena Degutiene has said that Kreivys should resign because he has lost the president’s trust. Vytautas Landsbergis, chairman of the TS-LKD Political Committee and member of the European Parliament, has said that the economy minister’s resignation is unavoidable. Kubilius keeps supporting Kreivys. And Jurgis Razma, leader of the Conservative Party parliamentary group, thinks that perhaps it is possible to amend the situation if the minister manages to answer the questions he has been asked in a clear and reasoned manner. The only Conservative Party leader who has been silent is Defence Minister Rasa Jukneviciene.

What is going on? Does this mean that the Conservative leaders cannot reach an agreement among themselves, or that they do not share the information they have, or that the diplomatic Seimas speaker does not want to worsen relations between the government and the Presidential Office, which, as the Conservatives have admitted, are not good “on an emotional level”?

Or, perhaps, we should take note of what the impeached President Rolandas Paksas, leader of the Order and Justice Party (TT) and member of the European Parliament, said (on purpose or not) before the local government elections. He said that if the Conservatives fail in the local government elections, the party might decide to replace Kubilius with somebody else. “I think that the Conservatives would take a step further and would replace Kubilius with a more popular politician,” Paksas told Baltic News Service then. “It could be that Degutiene, for example, could become prime minister,” Paksas said.

Surprise: The Conservative Party Has Not Lost the Local Government Elections
The opposition, euphoric with results of public opinion polls (by the way, the results of the local government elections made many experts doubt the reliability of the polls), hoped that, after the elections, Kubilius would humbly say that “the Conservatives have lost the elections because of my policy and the policy of my cabinet,” and that he would resign and become an ordinary MP. However, this did not happen.

The morning after the elections, we learned about a mystical report that Kreivys had submitted to the prime minister. The report was sent to the president, and she transferred the information, which she said should not be called “a report,” to the Special Investigation Service.

On Tuesday ( 1 March), according to TPP leader Arunas Valinskas, member of the ruling coalition, the prime minister and the ruling coalition agreed that if the opposition thought that the only constructive solution for it was to initiate no-confidence motions (the opposition has initiated two no-confidence motions, one is against Environment Minister Gediminas Kazlauskas, the president is dissatisfied with his work; and the second one is against Energy Minister Arvydas Sekmokas, the president supports this minister), it should initiate a no-confidence motion against the entire government or the prime minister.

“Those who were expecting the ruling coalition’s fiasco after the local government elections were disappointed. I do not think we are facing a political crisis. Perhaps the opposition wants to think that there is a political crisis,” Valinskas told Alfa.lt.

Each Minister Is Valuable
It is difficult to say whether the prime minister’s statement on no-confidence motion against the entire government is part of some game. By making this statement, the prime minister has forestalled, as Valinskas’s has put it, the attempts to “remove one minister after another from the cabinet.”

The Constitution states that if more than half of the ministers have been replaced, the government has to ask the Seimas for a new mandate. If the Seimas does not authorize the government, the government has to resign.

Even though only five out of the 14 ministers have been replaced and the prime minister still has a reserve, every minister counts. And this is not just because the cabinet would have to ask the Seimas for a new mandate, but also because to work while waiting whether the MPs will grant the mandate to the ministers is psychologically difficult, and the cabinet would have to forget about constructive work.

Since it is not clear what the outcome of the no-confidence motions against Sekmokas (Sekmokas won the vote of no-confidence on 10 March) and Kazlauskas will be, we can only guess what scenarios we can expect.

If the Seimas votes against both ministers, relations inside the ruling majority may become complicated because Kazlauskas was delegated to the cabinet by the TPP. If Kazlauskas has to resign, he would be the second TPP minister forced to resign, the first was Culture Minister Remigijus Vilkaitis.

If both ministers have to resign, the cabinet would reach the critical number of replaced ministers – seven. And an obvious next candidate would be Kreivys, and if Kreivys has to resign, Kubilius would have to ask the Seimas for a new mandate.

If only Kazlauskas resigns, the TPP could start questioning the benefits of being in the ruling coalition because this party has won very little votes in the local government elections. Therefore, the coalition’s fate would depend on whether the TPP has any hopes of participating in the 2012 parliamentary elections on its own or whether it is planning to unite with another party. If we look at the results of the local government elections as a rehearsal for the parliamentary elections, we can say that the TPP’s chances to win seats in the Seimas are very slim.

Can Degutiene Become Prime Minister?
Degutiene has been mentioned as a possible candidate for prime minister on a number of occasions.

Some representatives of the ruling coalition believe that this option would not be bad. The economic crisis has been contained, and Degutiene is charismatic, diplomatic, and motherly. By the way, Grybauskaite was also called motherly in the beginning.

Reportedly, if Kubilius resigned, the Conservatives could improve their ratings, but the ratings do not actually always reflect the actual situation. The Conservative Party could prepare for the parliamentary elections because the nation would be satisfied that the most unpopular politician, Kubilius, has been sacrificed. However, it remains unclear who could initiate such a scenario. Would it be the prime minister, who is defending Kreivys; the president, who is irritated by the prime minister’s stubbornness; or the Conservative Party strategists?

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