Another week brought to Lithuania another high rank resignation. Only this time the Minister of Health Algis Čaplikas from the Liberal Centre party, decided to break the common practice set by Lithuania’s establishment of resigning on Fridays. He chose a boring Wednesday to announce about his resignation, even though on Monday the Minister Čaplikas and the Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius assured that the Minister should stay.
It appears that the main reason behind the Minister’s resignation was a comment by one of the leaders of Conservative party Irena Degutienė, the Parliament’s Speaker. The Speaker on the morning of 10 February stated that if she was in the shoes of Čaplikas she would resign. The decision should be made due to the recent corruption scandal when the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Health Skikas was convicted for demanding and taking a bribe of 20.000 litas.
The Speaker Degutienė said to the Ziniu radijas, “I would (if I were Čaplikas) listen to what my party has to say. However, personally, especially after seeing the need of the health reform, I would have problems in implementing it and I would perhaps step down”. Degutiene also added that it would be difficult to implement the reforms with Čaplikas in charge since ‘any reforms require listening, consensus and trust.”
Meanwhile the Seimas’s speaker was giving the interview, the coalition partners had a working breakfast, during which the implementations of the health reforms were also discussed. Čaplikas found out about Degutiene’s remark after the meeting and soon announced that since he has no trust from some of the coalition partners’ from Conservative party he will submit his resignation letter to the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minster Kubilius was hasty to diffuse the tension and announced that Čaplikas’ reaction to Degutiene’s remark was too emotional and the Speaker spoke only her own mind. Kubilius said to reporters after the Cabinet’s meeting,” I think the minister made a judgment error on what he believed is the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrat faction’s negative opinion on the reform – we have supported it and will stand by it, and possibly he reacted hastily to Irena Degutiene’s doubts made public today.”
The President Grybauskaite, who is on her visit to Helsinki stated to ELTA agency, ‘The question of assuming political responsibility is first of all the matter of the Prime Minster and Čaplikas’ himself’.
What conclusions could be made from this situation? There are few of them. First of all, this miscommunication between the leaders of the ruling Conservative party indicates that the split in the party is widening. Due to Degutiene’s increasing popularity in Lithuania her influence in the Conservative party is also on rise. On the other hand Mr. Kubilius, the Chairperson of the Conservative party is loosing his support.
The other conclusion is that Degutiene, who is always denying of her ambitions to replace Kubilius as the Party Chairperson and possibly as the Prime Minister, is becoming more vocal in voicing her criticism to the Government. Still, when asked about her ambitions on Sunday in the Public Television she said that since she is number two in the state at the moment why should she wish to demote herself to Prime Ministers position, who is according to the Constitution is number three. Once asked if she would consider to participate in the presidential elections she replied that if she was younger she might.
Lithuania’s media is also assuming that Degutiene’s announcement was only an excuse for Čaplikas since he new that the Secret Investigative Service this morning seized documents from the Ministry or Health, the State Patients’ Fund, and a few independent organizations.
However, the Prime Minister Kubilius has five working days to make a decision on the resignation letter. The Chairperson of the Centre and Liberal Party Mr. Babravičius said to Lietuvos ryto TV that he will try to persuade Čaplikas to withdraw his resignation letter. Hence, we have to wait another five days, possibly until Friday.