C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000367
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/13/2016
TAGS: PGOV PREL LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIA: THREE-PARTY COALITION REGROUPS
REF: A. VILNIUS 357
Â¶B. 05 VILNIUS 1320
Classified By: Pol/Econ Officer Nancy Cohen
for reasons 1.4 (d).
Â¶1. (C) Summary. Leaders of Lithuania's Social Democrat,
Labor, and Farmers parties signed an agreement April 12 to
govern as a coalition following Parliament's removal of
parliamentary chairman Paulauskas and the withdrawal of his
New Union party from the government. Under the agreement,
Prime Minister Brazauskas will remain in power. The
Parliament on April 13 elected Labor Party nominee Viktor
Muntianas -- up until now deputy Parliamentary chairman ---
as its new chairman. Machinations continue over filling the
Foreign and Social Welfare ministries that Paulauskas's party
had filled, with both President Adamkus and Brazauskas
publicly urging retention of the incumbents. Brazauskas has
deferred all action to fill these Cabinet seats until after
the Easter holidays, while the three governing parties look
for potential small-party partners to increase their tiny
majority in the parliament. Despite the internal
shenanigans, Lithuanian foreign policy remains so far
unshaken. End Summary.
One Down, Three Remain: Coalition Continues to Rule
Â¶2. (U) Social Democratic leader Prime Minister Algirdas
Brazauskas, Labor Party's Viktor Uspaskich, and Farmers'
Party head Agriculture Minister Kazimieras Prunskiene signed
an agreement April 12 to reconstitute a coalition of the
three parties. The reconstituted coalition recognizes the
withdrawal of the New Union from the Government in the
aftermath of the removal of NU Speaker Arturas Paulauskas in
a secret ballot no-confidence vote on April 10 (ref A).
Despite Uspaskich's earlier announcement that he would seek
the post of prime minister, Brazauskas will retain the
position. The coalition partners also agreed to support the
election of Labor candidate Viktoras Muntianas, which the
Parliament carried out in a vote of 75 to 56 on April 13.
New Union Ministers Fates on Hold
Â¶3. (U) The coalition has been slower, however, in filling the
two positions in Government that NU members FM Antanas
Valionis and Social and Labor Minister Vilija Blinkeviciute
currently fill. The New Union officially recalled its
ministers upon withdrawing from the Government, but
Brazauskas said he will defer taking action until after
Easter, while both Adamkus and Brazauskas have urged efforts
to retain the two popular ministers in government.
Brazauskas told the media that he intended to ask
Blinkeviciute to suspend her New Union membership to enable
her to retain her Cabinet position. The PM had "nothing
concrete" to say about the future of foreign minister slot,
but Adamkus on April 14 urged that Valionis remain on at
least until after the summit meeting of new democracies in
Vilnius on May 4. Brazauskas ruled out press speculation
that Minister of Agriculture Prunskiene would gain the
foreign ministry. According to "diplomatic sources,"
Lithuanian ambassador to the United States, Vygaudas Usackas,
was up for the post, but Labor Party leader Uspaskich denied
Usackas was under consideration. Labor Party MP Jadvyga
Zinkeviciute told us, however, that her party is not out of
the picture. April 19, she said, the party fraction will
convene to discuss the matter of replacing the two ministers.
She said the Labor may accept Blinkeviciute or put forward
another name for coalition consideration at that time.
Parliamentary Musical Chairs?
Â¶4. (U) The New Union, upon withdrawing from the ruling
coalition, also relinquished the chairs of three key
parliamentary bodies -- the national security and defense
committee, audit committee, and the NATO commission.
Muntianas announced that negotiations to name new heads of
these groups would begin April 14. Commenting on suggestions
that the ruling coalition might accept new members, Muntianas
remarked that he could imagine various possible combinations,
to the exclusion of the Conservatives joining the Government.
Party Politics and Betrayals
Â¶5. (C) Conservative Party leader Andrius Kubilius told us he
had not expected his call for a vote of no confidence to
carry the day. He added that if the NU's partners had voted
against the motion or abstained, the four-party coalition
would still be intact. Kubilius said initiated the
no-confidence motion in order to take a moral stand, but that
coalition leaders released their members' votes for other
Â¶6. (C) New Union member Vaclov Stankevic opined that
Paulauskas lost the support of the Social Democrats because
he and various NU parliamentary committee chairs failed to
support Brazauskas on high-profile issues and on matters that
were of personal interest to the prime minister. According
to Stankevic, Brazuaskas never forgave Paulauskas for failing
to defend the prime minister against the opposition's charges
of unethical conduct and investigations into his family's
business transactions. Stankevic went on to say that NU's
Sadeckas, as head of the National Security and Defense
Committee, pushed too hard to increase defense spending
(against the PM's wishes) and was personally too close to
Police Commissioner Gregoravicius, nemesis of Juozas
Bernatonas, now the PM's advisor on domestic affairs.
Additionally, Stankevic said that Skardzius, the NU head of
the audit committee worked "as if in the opposition, and was
too critical" of Government operations.
Â¶7. (C) Claims that the speaker's fall may be closely tied to
his personal relationships with his coalition partners are
not surprising. Paulauskas kicked up controversy when he
publicly questioned Lithuania's role in Iraq despite the
GOL's public support for involvement (ref B). In private
conversations with the Ambassador, Paulauskas complained
about his coalition partner Uspaskich.
Summit on Course
Â¶7. (C) Simonas Satunas, an advisor to the President, told us
April 13 that the Presidency remains focused on the upcoming
Summit rather than on the changes in the government. Satunas
said there was significant concern within the president's
office about how the international community will perceive
this current political turn of events and commented that he
did not expect the Brazauskas or Adamkus to agree to changes
that would alter significantly the course of foreign policy.
He noted that even through the 2004 presidential impeachment
Lithuania had maintained its course.
Comment: Stirred Not Shaken
Â¶8. (C) Although Paulauskas ran for reelection in 2004 in
tandem with Brazauskas, he did little to take care of
Brazauskas and other people who could protect him
politically. Pauluaskas' complaints about Uspaskich put him
in Labor's sights, and his relationship with the Social
Democrats united the two parties in a common cause. When
Labor made its latest move to expand its power in the Seimas,
Pauluaskas was an easy target.
Â¶9. (C) Nonetheless, the New Union's loss of power seems to
have jiggled rather than shaken the Government. For now,
NU's ministers remain in place and the major programs on
course and public leaders seem intent that this latest
political episode not take on the appearance of high drama.
Lithuanian foreign policy so far remains unaffected.