Lithuanian leader questions Labour’s role in next government

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Lithuania's opposition Social Democrats, the Labour Party and the Order and Justice Party are set to form a government coalition following a second round of the parliamentary election held yesterday (28 October). But President Dalia Grybauskait? said the Labour Party, accused of fraudulent bookkeeping, was “not fit” to be part of a cabinet.

 

The president’s statements will certainly provoke controversy as negotiations to form the next government move forward, the Lithuanian Tribune reported. Naming the prime minister is a presidential prerogative according to the Lithuanian constitution.

Grybauskait? made the statement after meeting with Social Democratic leader Algirdas Butkevicius, tipped as the next prime minister. She reportedly said that “forming the government should not involve a party, which is suspected of ‘black’ bookkeeping and leaders of which are charged with fraudulent bookkeeping.”

With 75% of the votes counted, the Social Democrats, Labour and the right-wing Order and Justice Party were leading in the run-off vote. The Social Democrats were on course to hold 38 seats, Labour 29 seats, and Order and Justice 11 seats.

If the figures are confirmed, the three parties would be in a position to form a three-party coalition out of the 141-member national Seimas.

Under election rules, 71 MPs are elected in single-seat constituencies and 70 by proportional representation. The first round of the election was held on 14 October.

The outgoing administration of centre-right Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius and his allies were expected to hold 34 seats.

A controversial partner?

Labour leader Victor Uspaskich is a controversial figure and has faced court probes. In 2004, he won the parliamentary elections in his country and became economy minister. His party was also the most successful in the 2004 European elections, winning five of Lithuania’s 13 seats.

But the Labour party is suspected of income tax violations. Uspaskich claims he is not responsible of any wrongdoing as he had entrusted the party's bookkeeping to a collaborator.  Uspaskich is a member of the European Parliament (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats) and has avoided extradition sought by the government.

According to the website Baltic Business News, the priorities of a prospective new government led by Butkevicius would be restarting the slow but potentially massive housing renovation programme, refocusing on district heating in favour of biofuel, raising the minimum monthly wage and reviewing the tax system, potentially in favour of progressive taxation).

Butkevicus served as finance and transport minister in the 2004-2008 Social-Democrats-led governments.

Reportedly, Butkevicius does not entirely rule out the possibility of a fourth partner in a future coalition.

The other political parties that won seats in the next parliament are the Liberal Movement, with 10 seats, Polish Election Action with eight seats and Way of Courage with seven. In addition, found independent candidates won seats.

“I believe the Way of Courage party is a no, and we are ready to talk to other parties,” Butkevicius was quoted as saying.

In further development, the Social Democratic leader that Andrius Palionis, an independent candidate and son of the late Social Democratic MP, Juozas Palionis, said he would join the Social Democratic political group in parliament.

No to Visaginas

Butkevicius also confirmed that he was not supporting the planned Visaginas nuclear power plant (see background), although he was not in principle against nuclear power. A majority of voters rejected the project at a referendum, held in parallel with the first round of the parliamentary vote two weeks ago.

He said that he opposed the project because it was put forward “hastily” by the outgoing government for political reasons. 

Lithuania has relied on Russia for 80% of its energy since the closure of the Ignalina nuclear power plant in 2009. The former Soviet republic sees itself as vulnerable because of its dependence on Russia.

In 1992, at a G7 summit, it was decided that Ignalina in Lithuania, four units of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant in Bulgaria, and Bohunice in Slovakia had to be closed as they presented a high level of risk. All these nuclear units are now closed, the last to be shut down in December 2009 being the second unit of Ignalina.

But the outgoing centre-right government had ambitious plans to reduce the country’s energy reliance from Russia and to replace Ignalina with a modern nuclear power plant named Visaginas, to be built at the site of the former central.

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