Lithuanian Coalition Gets Reprieve as Lawmakers Defy Party

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  • Social Democrat MPs defy party vote, decide to back government
  • President had warned of period of political instability

Lithuania’s ruling coalition was saved from collapse after lawmakers from its junior partner defied their own party by opting to support the 10-month-old government.

The Social Democrats’ members of parliament voted 10-4 to remain in the alliance, with one abstaining. They decried the party’s “premature” decision at the weekend to quit. The party’s foreign and justice minister had already decided to remain in the cabinet.

“There was no indication how working in opposition would be more constructive than working in the ruling coalition,” the lawmakers said Monday in a statement on the party’s website.

Political friction in the European Union and NATO member came to a head Saturday, when the Social Democrats voted to leave the government after being bypassed over a forestry reform that they opposed. Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, whose Peasant and Greens Union holds 56 of parliament’s 141 seats, had called the move “shortsighted” and pledged to remain as head of a minority government, relying on parliamentary support from the Social Democrats’ faction under a cooperation pact.

Elections aren’t scheduled until 2020 in Lithuania, a Baltic nation of 2.9 million people. While President Dalia Grybauskaite warned Saturday of a period of instability, the yield on Lithuania’s euro-denominated debt due 2026 was unchanged at 0.75 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.

Skvernelis said he’d try to persuade Economy Minister Mindaugas Sinkevicius, from the Social Democrats, to stay on after he tendered his resignation, the Baltic News Service reported. Party leaders and its ethics panel plan to discuss the lawmakers’ move to support the government and may consider expelling rebellious members, BNS said, citing party chairman Gintautas Paluckas.

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