Lithuanian government coalition breaks up after just year in office

Lithuanian government coalition breaks up after just year in office
Some Social Democrat deputies in the parliament have said they will continue to support the minority government.
By bne IntelliNews September 25, 2017

The Lithuanian coalition government broke up on September 23 after the junior coalition partner, the Social Democratic party, decided to leave, citing the inability to force its policy points under the leadership of the senior partner, the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union.

The coalition has appeared fractious almost since the election late last year, which somewhat surprisingly elevated the agrarians (LVZS) to power at the expense of scandal-beset Social Democrats (LSDP) who were only third.  The Social Democrats were disappointed in having their proposals – such as subsidising the cost of central heating for residents - suppressed by the senior coalition partner.

The decision of the LSDP’s council to leave the coalition – after just one year – puts the LVZS in the precarious position of having to scrape for support on a case-by-case basis in the parliament.

Following the split, the agrarian party has 57 MPs in the 141-seat lower house of the Lithuanian parliament, or the Seimas. 

The split has happened after just one year after the previous election, with three more years to go before the next vote. That increases the likelihood of an early election, the first time since 1992, Lithuania media speculated.

"Following the decision of the LSDP, we are entering a stage of political instability," the Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said in a statement. The LSDP have three ministers in the government, responsible for foreign affairs, farming, and justice.

Despite being 14 seats short of majority, however, the Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis put on a confident face regarding the chances of his government to continue.

“All preconditions are in place for our government to continue until the next general election in 2020,” Skvernelis told Reuters. 

Skvernelis’ confidence may be built on that the fact that the decision to leave the government coalition appears not to the have a universal backing in the LSDP. Defying the party’s council move, some of the Social Democratic MPs decided on September 25 to continue working with the LVZS in the parliament, Lithuanian news website Delfi reports.

The soundness of Skvernelis’ outlook on ruling in a minority government will be verified in the coming important votes in the parliament, the next year’s budget vote in particular. The budget bill vote is expected to happen by the end of the year.