The internal struggles of the Order and Justice Party (TTP) have surfaced into public view. The supporters of incumbent chairman Remigijus Žemaitaitis are accusing Petras Gražulis of conspiracy, with him seeking to return Rolandas Paksas to lead the party as he supposedly can achieve for the TTP to become a coalition party instead of one in the opposition.
Tensions spiked within the TTP after last weekend's party congress in Palanga, where more than half the party council backed a no confidence vote against R. Žemaitaitis. A decision was also made to appeal to TTP founder MEP R. Paksas "on safeguarding the party's future."
R. Žemaitaitis' supporters say that R. Paksas' backers have sought to push out the current TTP chairman out for a time now. Disapproval toward him has apparently arisen because Order and Justice is not working with the ruling coalition in Seimas, instead remaining in the opposition, also pointed statements toward both P. Gražulis and R. Paksas, who have been talking of potentially founding a civic movement prior to the upcoming municipal elections.
Due to this, signatures are being gathered in the party's branches, demanding for R. Žemaitaitis to withdraw. MP P. Gražulis, who was expelled from the parliamentary TTP group a month ago and suspended for a year as a party member last weekend for details from his personal life, as well as Pagėgiai branch chairman Kęstas Komskis, one of the party's founders, accused of vote purchasing and thus failing to obtain a seat in the current Seimas, who are viewed as the main initiators of this process.
Former member of Seimas Rimas Antanas Ručys is identified as another activist against the current chairman and supporter of R. Paksas. Officially, he does not belong to the party right now because he faces accusations in the TTP political corruption case that is now in the courts.
R. Paksas himself claims that the party is inviting him not to lead, but to "resolve a problem." However, he also does not categorically dismiss the possibility of him returning to helm the TTP, having relinquished leadership in 2016.
"You will not hear a firm "no" from a person, who has been in politics for two decades. I am openly saying: if this situation is not resolved, from what is now in the party, what I have been seeing in the past few days, it can be seen that the party is nearing its end. If attitudes to people, to work and to goals are not changed, it will simply meet its end and this leaves me greatly concerned," R. Paksas told Delfi.
Gražulis: Paksas regrets making Žemaitaitis chairman
That a little over 50 of the 90 TTP board members backed a no confidence vote against R. Žemaitaitis was announced after this party governance organ's meeting held this weekend.
"Confusion, chasing cheap popularity and "flirting" with a destructive opposition have already overshadowed the duty to represent the party's idea and value positions, which were formulated many years ago. Certain dubious decisions and methods directed against separate party members, who view personal lack of responsibility and lack of political culture critically, also deny the most essential principles of party community coexistence," the public statement from a portion of Order and Justice states.
It outlines how the signatories see that "the only way in this difficult stage of TTP operation is to call on president Rolandas Paksas regarding safeguarding the party's future."
According to what P. Gražulis has told Delfi, R. Paksas specifically is seen as the only person, who can resolve the party's internal problems.
"It is clear that there is significant antagonism in the party, thus both party branch chairmen and more than 50 council members called upon R. Paksas in writing for him to make a decision and return to the post of chairman because otherwise the party will scatter," the MP stated.
When asked if this was discussed with R. Paksas himself, the politician answered that "there have been discussions."
"No doubt, he as a person would rather not return, but he says that if the problem cannot be resolved otherwise, if he is the only who can do this, then it must be considered," P. Gražulis explained.
According to the MP, R. Paksas admitted in such conversations that "his decision to hand the party leadership to R. Žemaitaitis was a mistake."
"This was no doubt his own decision. If R. Paksas had proposed anyone else, there can be no doubt, the congress would have elected the other. Now R. Žemaitaitis is working with the branches, with the chairmen, travelling around, trying to somehow diminish R. Paksas' position. Talking how R. Žemaitaitis is the best leader, perhaps better than president Paksas.
R. Paksas himself is not travelling around, not demeaning himself, but he cannot disregard a party he founded and led for 15 years. If the party fell apart now during R. Žemaitaitis' leadership, R. Paksas would find it truly unfortunate," P. Gražulis said.
A conspiracy of the malcontent
K. Komskis also confirmed to Delfi that there had been discussions with R. Paksas of taking lead of TTP once more.
"There were some talks. It arises from the very bottom, a spontaneous desire. It is no secret that almost half the management members spoke to R. Žemaitaitis around a month and a half ago, telling him that the situation is difficult, especially because he had spoken against certain party members – against both P. Gražulis and R. Paksas, as well as against the civic movement they were founding. We said that the party chairman cannot act against other party members. Since R. Žemaitaitis did not react to it, now there are around 50 of the 90 management members, who appealed again, asking for R. Paksas to return," he explained, adding that, "R. Paksas said neither yes, nor no, bus has said that if there is need, he will go and lead. The situation is poor and there is not that much time to the municipal elections."
When asked whether R. Paksas' backers are not concerned that he stands accused in an ongoing corruption trial, K. Komskis explained that "Many cases start with a bang, but end the same way." "I see no problems," he said.
Current TTP Seimas group prefect Vytautas Kamblevičius stated that R. Žemaitaitis is "not being forced by anyone."
"All of Lithuania knows what P. Gražulis is doing. K. Komskis also steps over the line. It was P. Gražulis and his friends, who made up that intrigue. A marketplace level. Respectably party members should neither discuss, nor pay attention. We need not react because of a few clowns, everything is within the bounds of normalcy. R. Paksas will certainly not return to lead the party – it is only they, who fabricate various versions," he stated.
Paksas: in his place, I would consider resignation
R. Paksas told Delfi that what he received from some TTP members was not an invitation to return, but to resolve the situation developing in the party.
"I have seen that paper, that line, that to resolve the entrenched problem, my help is needed. But by no means is it an invitation to return to the post of chairman," he said.
The MEP, who was impeached from the post of president in 2004 and, despite recommendations from international institutions favouring him, still unable to take any office that requires an oath in Lithuania, mentioned that whoever will lead the TTP will be decided in the party congress.
However, at the same time he mentioned that in R. Žemaitaitis' shoes he would resign.
"I personally struggle to imagine myself ni such a situation where two thirds of the council members, branch chairmen express a lack of confidence. I do not know whether I wouldn't make the step to resign. As for what will happen now, we will talk when the congress arrives because currently who knows, who is inviting and who dislikes what," R. Paksas answered Delfi, when asked about plans to return to TTP leadership.
R. Žemaitaitis does not deny that there are those malcontent with his actions and the current TTP management's "work methods" in the party.
"The methods are such that people must finally answer for their actions. Those, who are malcontent, are seeking by all means to establish destruction in the party so that they would continue to be heard and could make everyone dance to their tune," he explained laconically.
While R. Paksas did not clearly answer whether he plans to take over TTP leadership, his most recent actions reveal an active pursuit of influencing Order and Justice decisions.
On Wednesday, LRT announced that R. Paksas has recently held numerous meetings with the ruling coalition leader, Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS) chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis. The politicians admitted they spoke of how the TTP could contribute to the coalition.
It was P. Gražulis, who took forth information about such talks to public. This politician was already called the initiator of cooperation negotiations between Order and Justice and the "Farmers", having become thus after the LVŽS was unwilling to take him into their group on his own and announcing that the TTP delegated R. Paksas to negotiate on this matter.
Nevertheless, it is rumoured in Seimas that the first meetings between R. Paksas and R. Karbauskis were held without the knowledge of the current TTP management – information apparently only reached it in early June. That is when party management was called together, later on also a Seimas Order and Justice group meeting, where the question was discussed quite fiercely – following this meeting P. Gražulis was expelled from the group.
When asked by Delfi, under what status he negotiated with the majority's leaders, R. Paksas stated, "he spoke as a politician." "As for what representative I was, it is hard to say," he explained.
"The story of who delegates whom is fairly uninteresting to me. There are talks about how in the party management there were discussions, my official proposal that the TTP group would withdraw from the unconstructive opposition in Seimas. My position was that right now the TTP must back the "Farmers" as a force, which despite making some mistakes, is taking Lithuania in the right direction," R. Paksas said.
According to him, with party members backing this idea, he raised the question that before initiating negotiations, an invitation from the LVŽ is needed.
"In order to negotiate with the LVŽ we need an invitation to do so. There was no such invitation until the management meeting held a month ago. Then the management decided that it is necessary to talk whether there will be an invitation for negotiations. And I was the one, who began talks," the politician explained.
Meanwhile R. Žemaitaitis tells Delfi that Order and Justice management knew of talks with the majority.
"But of course any deal between the TTP and LVŽS as parties is impossible because R. Karbauskis stated after the Seimas elections that no coalition agreement can be made with parties that stand accused in court. In other terms, today we can talk about agreements between groups and the prefect of the TTP group is Vytautas Kamblevičius," he emphasised.