News

2013.03.15 11:29

Vladimiras Laučius: A New Force – “You’ll be the Third”

DELFI.lt2013.03.15 11:29

“You’ll be the third” is what they say when two men are having fun (a drink, usually) and they need the third participant for maximum entertainment. “We’ll be the third force” or “the third way,” separate or joint political parties say when trying to present themselves as alternatives to social democrats and conservatives, writes Vladimiras Laucius for DELFI. 

You’ll be the third” is what they say when two men are having fun (a drink, usually) and they need the third participant for maximum entertainment. “We’ll be the third force” or “the third way,” separate or joint political parties say when trying to present themselves as alternatives to social democrats and conservatives, writes Vladimiras Laucius for DELFI. 

The Labour Party and the Order and Justice party decided to become such an alternative, the third way, by announcing their merger. What are the perspectives of this new formation?

At first glance – not that bad. The would-be united party currently has the majority of seats in the Parliament and according to the number of votes received during the Seimas elections is the most trusted political force in Lithuania.

By the way, the latest poll, conducted by Vilimorus, shows that the Social Democrats’ popularity is higher than the Labour Party and the Order and Justice Party’s combined. Viktor Uspaskich and Rolandas Paksas’s ratings are going downhill with Algirdas Butkevičius and President Dalia Grybauskaitė being the most popular politicians in the country.

Ratings, however, are fragile and temporary. On the other hand, it’s not clear whether we’ll see some legal and political obstacles preventing the merger.

During weddings, in some Christian churches officiates address the participants of a ceremony: “If anyone here can show just cause as to why these two may not be joined together, let him speak now–or forever hold his peace.” During the ‘marriage’ of the Labour Party and the Order and Justice Party the one to speak was…the Prosecutor’s Office.

And prosecutors aren’t going to forever hold their peace. They claim to know the reason why these parties cannot enter into a ‘marriage’. The court has received a request from prosecutors to suspend or limit the activities of the Labour Party as a legal entity. The reason of the request – the merger with the Order and Justice Party.

Despite the result of this merger, a great deal of influence regarding the Labour Party or the new formation’s future will arise from the outcome of the case involving cooking the books. Convicted Uspaskich wouldn’t be the same as Uspaskich on trial. The main source of the Labour Party’s popularity is its leader after all.

The joining political force has another feature that some of the voters find attractive – the populist minimum wage increase thingy. Conservative Jurgis Razma on Facebook draws attention to the fact that Uspaskich announced pretty much the only goal of the joint party – starting the middle of this year the monthly minimum wage will be LTL 1200 (€348) and in the end of the year – LTL 1500 (€434).

According to Razma, such statements reveal very clearly the populist nature of the would-be joint party and its orientation towards the people with the lowest income. By the way, during the Seimas elections, too, the Labour Party promised to increase the minimum wage to LTL 1500 (€434) and the Order and Justice Party – to as high as LTL 1800 (€521).

Such slogans can inspire the voters, who ignore the impact of such an increase of the minimum wage on the small businesses and the destruction of the plans to introduce the euro. Will the joint Labour Party and the Order and Justice Party become one huge minimum wage-increasing-party, representing not those who are trying to earn more, but those who want to get more? Perhaps they want Lithuania to end the same way Greece did?

On the other hand, we can assume that common sense will prevail and the new party will try to become a solid centre-oriented political force – just like its leaders and representatives claim to have planned. The third way between social democratic and rightist politics. What would such a road have in store for them?

To be the centre political force during the first decade of independence was the goal of the Centre Union and partially – of the Christian Democrats. What happened? During the 2000 Seimas elections the Centre Union and the Christian Democrats suffered a crushing defeat and never recovered.

What is more, a new political force emerged that year, wishing to put an end to the diarchy of the Social Democrats and the Conservatives: the New Union. But soon it lost its ‘centrist’ or ‘third way’ face by forming a coalition with the Social Democrats.

After ruling with the Social Democrats the New Union was so weakened that during the 2004 Seimas elections it didn’t even risk creating a separate list and adjoined the Social Democrats. Four years later, the New Union disappeared from the sky of parliamentary politics and its former leader, Artūras Paulauskas, currently represents the Labour Party at the Seimas.

The Liberal and Centre Union tried to create a middle way to balance out the leftists and the rightists. During the last Seimas elections it announced its ‘third way’ slogan. Today, its representatives are no longer in the Seimas and the Union lost the elections miserably.

Romualdas Ozolas, Algirdas Saudargas, Artūras Paulauskas, Artūras Zuokas, Algis Čaplikas, Arūnas Valinskas – all of them tried to persuade the Lithuanian voters that there was a trustworthy third force besides the Social Democrats and the Conservatives. Their effort was futile.