- November 16, 2012
Reflections on white-and-red soup and a new page of history. A press review
At last, after a longish process of matchmaking, the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania has entered into a political marriage with the rest of the ruling parties. The relationship is currently arousing more media interest that the potential marriage of Katarzyna Niemyćko and Deivydas Zvonkus.
The Poles are going to be in power. After weeks of heated discussions and doubts, such as “will they enter or not?,” “will they gain or not?,” “will they give up or not?,” it is time for summing-ups and prognoses.
On the one hand, the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania seems to be a party of high principles. Many commentators stress that the EAPL has not started the coalition talks with the division of ministerial portfolios, but with discussing the issues of political programmes. On the other hand, the party has caused a big commotion by its radical right-wing views. For instance, the EAPL plans to present an anti-abortion bill, as well as a bill of compulsory religious education and religious education exams at schools, to the Seimas. This would be something that Father Rydzyk can only dream about.
In comparison to the above-mentioned ideas, the present-day Lithuania, though traditionally called “St. Mary’s Land,” is an oasis of liberalism. Thus, it may be assumed that if the bills are indeed presented to the Seimas, the media will be seething with emotions. However, for the time being the proposals are just announcements, and the journalists’ attention is mostly attracted to the question of ministries.
“The unconfirmed piece of news about the Ministry of Energy going to the EAPL is interesting for a number of reasons. Handing the ministry over to the EAPL may become an additional guarantee that the project of an electro-energetic joint between Lithuania and Poland will be continued. (…) It may also swing other projects, such as the gas joint between the two countries, into action. That would be beneficial both for the coalition and for Lithuania,” as Ramūnas Vilpišauskas PhD, a professor of Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science, writes in his comment for Delfi.
Vilpišauskas forecasts that if the Poles take the Ministry of Energy, they may also become the scapegoats. “In case of any difficulties in the completion of energetic projects, social democrats and the Labour Party will always have somebody to shift the responsibility onto. (…) Thus, it will not be surprising if, after inviting the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania to the coalition, the partners do not miss a single occasion to criticize it.”
At the same time the political scientist stresses that a candidate from the EAPL may stand a greater chance to find a common language with the President of Lithuania, because the field of energetics is the apple of her eye. Also, Madam President is not particularly happy about the coalition that is now being formed.
The present relations of the President and the Seimas are far from peaceful, and the media are additionally trying to stir up the public’s emotions. While Polish newspapers in Lithuania prefer to describe the situation with terms like “smear campaign” or “attack” (on Poles, of course), the Lithuanian ones use the type of language that suggests a simple, inelegant dust-up.
“President Dalia Grybauskaitė welcomes the newly formed Seimas with a resonant slap in the face, which is directed not only to the parliament itself, but also to the citizens who have elected it”- venomously writes the Friday issue of the Lietuvos Rytas. Alfa.lt, an Internet portal, is not very original either. “Another slap in the face. The President is not going to take part in the first session of the Seimas.”
At the time of earlier political larks, the media were also resonant with slaps and …. wet with saliva. “A slap in the face for voters on the way to presidency.” “A. Butkevičius calls the Seimas’ spitting in the Constitutional Court’s face a mistake.” “The Seimas spat on the Constitutional Court’s face, and later changed its mind.” “A blow for the forming coalition. Grybauskaitė is going to turn to the Constitutional Tribunal to settle the matter of the results of the elections.” “Grybauskaitė: the proposal of the Constitutional Court is a blow for the venal democracy.” These are just a few of the fancy titles that illustrate the vicissitudes of the internal policy of Lithuania.
If all of those words materialized, our Seimas would look equally amusing as the Ukrainian parliament, where the MPs of Cossack gusto can finish the sessions by getting into scuffles with one another. However, Lithuania is a Scandinavian country, so the only scuffles here take place on the journalists’ minds.
“When a table is beautified with a bouquet of red carnations, set for cold cuts, sausages, and gherkins, and all of a sudden comes an eagle, who promises to impose a new order, no one is able to notice that on the table appears a white-and-red tureen full of suspicious soup.” This is not a bedtime story, but a subtle literary metaphor. The suspicious soup obviously represents the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, which, according to the author of the metaphor, spoils the taste of Lithuanian politics.
This year’s election list of the EAPL contained representatives of three parties. Apart from Poles, there were also members of the Russian Alliance and of Lithuanian People’s Party. However, this collective list was not declared electoral coalition, although, according to the Bill of Parliamentary Elections, it should have been, as Ramūnas Bogdanas states in his article. In a flowery style, Bogdanas also claims that the majority of the new MPs elected from the list of the EAPL must not enter the Seimas. He argues that in order to pass the electoral threshold, a single political party has to have 5% of the votes, and for a coalition of parties the threshold is 7%. According to this principle, if the EAPL had registered its list as the coalition one, it would not have passed the 7% threshold, and consequently, it would now have only three MPs from the single-member legislative districts.
Moreover, Bogdanas mentions the example of Gintaras Songaila and other candidates from his election list. “In the latest election there was also another formation of parties, which behaved lawfully and was registered as the coalition named For Lithuania in Lithuania. Although they gathered only a small number of votes, they played fair and according to the rules.”
As we know, for candidates from For Lithuania in Lithuania even a stain on their honour would not have helped, as they did not receive even 1% of the votes. But Bogdanas means something else.
“Could Lithuania really be a country where some people have to be law-abiding, while others may treat the law as they wish? Unfortunately, examples of the latter approach can be seen everywhere. Such model of behaviour, which only generates legal chaos, transforms taking care of one’s private affairs into acts of national importance. Could the governmental institutions really be that distorted when it comes to respecting minority rights?” – asks Bogdanas.
“Now it all looks as if one basketball team entered seven players in a competition instead of entering the regular five, and everybody believed that the additional two were there “informally.” Rules must be obeyed not only in basketball. More importantly, public life also has to be governed by rules, which are called the law. Disorder and disrespect for the law will spread if no one puts a stop to them. What a thief first steals, is a needle,” as Bogdanas metaphorically concludes.
Such commentators as Bogdanas, who do not like white-and-red soup at all, are currently less numerous. Even a watchful observer and professional critic of Poles, Anatolijus Lapinskas, has recently become more benign in his comments. “It appears really hopeful that the current policy of the EAPL is no longer confrontational, but focused on all nation’s well-being. I do not hesitate to call the present situation a new chapter in the history of the last decades. I am sure that the involvement of national minorities in ruling Lithuania, coupled with them stopping to send never-ending complaints to the EU, will enhance the minorities’ own mental state. Also, the condition of the whole country will be improved, too, especially when no one has to answer senseless complaints any more,” as Lapinskas writes in his text titled “Has a new stage in Polish-Lithuanian relations already begun?”
However, it is not that Lapinskas is happy with everything. For instance, he does not like the fact that the current political situation of Lithuania is actively commented by Polish organizations, which “do not understand historical realities and which are constantly souring our relationships.” Additionally, Lapinskas cannot comprehend why the candidate for prime minister, Algirdas Butkevičius, stops the conversation dead and declares (uninvited) that the question of name spelling will be solved shortly. Still, Lapinskas seems uplifted by the fact that Polish politicians of high rank, satisfied with the result achieved by the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, no longer “spur Lithuanian Poles to action.”
A sugary-sweet conclusion of Lapinskas: “there is one more encouraging piece of news. A few weeks ago the Polish media in Lithuania stopped to inform about the alleged harm done to Poles by Lithuanians. Now they analyze the current political situation of Lithuania level-headedly and responsibly. In other words, the EAPL is becoming a normal political force, and the Polish minority in Lithuania is becoming an integral part of the society. It should have happened a long time ago.”
He is right there.
Tłumaczenie Natalia Błędowska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Natalia Błędowska the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.