The Social Democrats and the recently founded Social Democrat Labourites are like cat and dog. Social Democrat leader Gintautas Paluckas has described his former colleagues, who withdrew from the party to found their own as parasitic organisms seeking only to remain in power, while Social Democrat Labour chairman Gediminas Kirkilas retorts that the now opposition Social Democrats are only weakening to the benefit of the Conservatives. Both sides are cautious when talking about peace and the potential for reuniting. Meanwhile honorary member of the Social Democrat Party Dobilas Kirvelis is convinced – both parties could suffer greatly in the coming Seimas elections and if they wish to be reunited, a new leader is needed, lrt.lt writes.
A Spinter Tyrimai survey commissioned by Delfi has revealed that the Lithuanian Social Democrat Labour Party, many of whose members are former Lithuanian Social Democrat Party members, who split away and founded their party in late March, has already reached 3.7% support among voters and as sociologists have observed, even before founding their party, the Social Democrat Labourites' ratings reached 4.5% in certain surveys.
Meanwhile, G. Paluckas' LSDP appears to be unable to climb out of a ratings nadir. In the aforementioned Spinter Tyrimai survey, it is specified that the Social Democrats' popularity is declining: in February, the LSDP had the support of 8.2% of respondents, which declined to 6.5% in March. The Social Democrats, based on the survey data, find themselves in fourth place based on popularity, being behind the "Farmers", Conservatives and Order and Justice.
Expecting a Seimas group
Social Democrat Labour leader G. Kirkilas did not deny that Social Democrat votes may end up split due to the existence of two social democratic powers, but he blames LSDP leader G. Paluckas for this. According to Kirkilas, it is specifically the current Social Democrat leader's initiative to take the LSDP out of the ruling coalition that shattered the party's unity. G. Kirkilas argued that social democrat ideas can only be accomplished when the party is in power, thus he cannot comprehend the "beaver party" label, which has been applied to Social Democrat Labour.
"That's what parties are made for – to participate in government because otherwise they cannot accomplish their programmes. The opposition Social Democrats can currently accomplish their programme? They can say what they wish, but there will be no one to listen and what they are currently saying, that there will be some different party, that they will do something, is only promises for the future," G. Kirkilas criticised G. Paluckas' LSDP.
In terms of the LSDDP's future, the veteran politician assured he has no doubts that in the 2020 Seimas elections, Social Democrat Labour will be able to overcome the 5% electoral barrier.
"We will certainly have a group in Seimas and it is overall a major question, how social democrat voters will act. There will be an alternative and if we act correctly, if we present relevant programmes, a vision, convince people, we could gather more than the Social Democrats. Furthermore, it is a great opportunity for us to work in the centre-left with our "Farmer" partners during the municipal elections, form a coalition with them, furthermore in our charter, we have a completely new norm – we can associate with public committees, other organisations such as trade unions. As such, in this respect, I see good prospects," G. Kirkilas exuded optimism.
Former colleagues – parasite organisms
When asked by lrt.lt, whether people may be confused during the coming municipal, European Parliament and Seimas elections on which – the LSDP or the LSDDP – is the real social democrats, LSDP chairman G. Paluckas urged to consider what the former party veterans are seeking by forming a new party.
"People can review, how they operated based on traditional Western social democratic values during an entire decade of rule. All these tales that they now have some sort of ideology, value system and that they are representing someone is simply smoke and mirrors. There are no two social democratic parties in Lithuania, there is one Lithuanian Social Democrat Party and what G. Kirkilas, J. Bernatonis and the Pinskai are talking about is a simple government party, whose only goal is to exist, it is like a parasite organism, attached to a healthy tree trunk. There are such organism, which are simply there and create no added value," G. Paluckas commented.
"Yes, they will seek to confuse people with their name, will seek to lure a part of our votes and they may succeed for a time. Primary ratings show that they have taken a percentage from the Labour Party and from us as well. In principle, this ploy may work for a time, but later people will discern, what is what. I have no doubt of it," the LSDP leader explained.
G. Paluckas stated he was unwilling to consider, whether Social Democrat Labour will be able to enter parliament in the coming Seimas elections and when asked, what specifically the LSDP is aiming at, he noted that he does not indulge in boasting and prognoses.
"We do no indulge in those prognoses and boasting that we will or will not overcome [the 5% electoral barrier]. We have a clear analysis of our situation in the regions. What is related to the municipal elections, it is far better, compared to the national surveys being spread," the LSDP leader spoke of the party's preparations for the municipal elections.
Social Democrats reuniting – mission impossible?
While part of the former and remaining in the LSDP ranks social democrats unofficially nurture hopes that in the future the party could be whole once more, G. Paluckas stated that there is no way back.
"There is no second social democratic party. There is simply the remnants of the Labour Party, whose left overs our former party leaders are trying to attach to a renewed, purified and returning to programme principles social democrat party. The two do not mix, we will not return, we will not go back to interest based politics," the LSDP leader assured.
He stated that if initiatives appeared in the LSDP ranks to reunite with the LSDDP, he would not suppress them, however he added that he would do his all so that the politicians, who left the party, would not want to return.
"During my term I will do my best so that the Social Democrat Party would change in a way that our former comrades would not even want to return. I will reinforce the principles of transparency, publicity and responsibility for one's words and actions so that such demagoguery and propaganda that was fed to both the public and party members would no longer be able to raise its head in our structures," G. Paluckas stated.
G. Kirkilas was more diplomatic regarding the potential to re-join in the future. According to him, social democratic forces in both Lithuania and abroad are in danger, thus the politician did not dismiss that discussions on reuniting may be inevitable. That said, as the Social Democrat Labour leader emphasised, it would be nigh on impossible to negotiate with the current LSDP leadership.
"Let me remind that the LDDP and the Social Democrats spent almost 10 years in merger discussions, thus it is a variant that cannot be dismissed, but in terms of the current leadership, I do not really see, who to discuss with. Only angry, irate people are left there. Truth be told, there are almost no ideologists left, thus from today's positions I can hardly see such a possibility, but everything will change in the future," G. Kirkilas mused.
A potential peacemaker?
Honorary LSDP member, one of the individuals behind the recreation of the Social Democrat Party in Lithuania, D. Kirvelis told lrt.lt that in his opinion, both conflicting sides are to blame for the party's fracture. According to him, both G. Kirkilas and G. Paluckas' sides are seeking power, forgetting that Social Democrats require ideological revolution.
"Neither side realises that there is need for radical programme changes because traditional social democrat needs are outdated and social democrats are, after all, reformists, not the conservatives. The Social Democrats must admit that technologies are changing society, that social needs are changing, as is social structure, but neither side wishes to understand this," the LSDP ideologist shared his insight.
When analysing the Social Democrat conflict, D. Kirvelis stated he could see a clash in the leaders' ambitions. According to the Social Democrat veteran, G. Kirkilas and his entourage showed by protesting the LSDP withdrawal and remaining in the coalition that they would like to remain in power, however G. Paluckas, lacking any major political victories, is acting similarly, having campaigned for snap elections together with Conservative leader Gabrielius Landsbergis.
"In this matter I see more of the leaders' ambitions because G. Paluckas does not have any position, even when in power. When I first heard of that conspiracy theory about the project 2G, I did not believe it, but when I took a better look... G. Paluckas was a Conservative once, yes? When you begin to analyse their psychological structures, they both seriously dreamed of snap Seimas elections," D. Kirvelis mused.
When asked, how he views the chances of the LSDP and LSDDP in the coming Seimas elections, he painted a grim picture.
"In my mind, neither party has a chance to form a government. The votes are split. Voters will think that perhaps they can form a government, but they disagree with one another and agreement is needed. I do not know whether either will surpass the 5% barrier. I doubt it," D. Kirvelis stated.
Could the social democrat parties merge in the future? D. Kirvelis is certain it could happen, but the LSDP leadership should go to someone else.
"Unless the Social Democrat Party chairman elections were won by someone other than G. Paluckas and instead Mindaugas Sinkevičius would. <...> He, of course, is not yet thinking at the state level yet because he was brought up as the Jonava mayor, but he understands technological determinism, he is tolerant, not as fierce," the honorary social democrat specified a potential saviour for the social democrats.
Who benefits from weakened Social Democrats?
Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science docent, political scientist Kęstutis Girnius is certain that the Social Democrat's split will undoubtedly disperse their voters.
"The Social Democrats were unsuccessful in the 2016 Seimas elections. If they had retained unity, I believe the situation would be better in 2020. Now it will be difficult to attract voters because there are two different parties," K. Girnius commented.
According to the expert, both G. Paluckas' LSDP, having lost many prominent faces and the recently founded LSDDP as well because, according to K. Girnius, the political veterans lack youth input, will struggle to earn the voters' sympathies. This situation, the political scientist notes, will be exploited by other parties, who will seek to draw social democrat voters to their side.
"Of course the "Farmers" are celebrating it because they managed to draw social democrat voters during the last elections. A danger arose that these voters would return to the Social Democrats after "Farmer" rule, but now with the Social Democrats fractured, there is a lower likelihood of it happening. Other parties, which could benefit from this break up would be the Labour Party, if it survives court battles intact and is led by V. Uspaskich, as well as the Order and Justice Party," K. Girnius commented.