Lithuanian Government Faces Minority Rule

Lithuania’s government was on the brink of minority rule after members of a former coalition partner quit their party under pressure for backing Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis.

Eight lawmakers left the Social Democrats Saturday amid the threat of expulsion for defying the party’s Sept. 23 decision to quit the ruling alliance. The resignations leave the party’s faction in parliament split, with nine non-partisan members to support the government.

Saulius Skvernelis

Photographer: Petras Malukas/AFP via Getty Images

Skvernelis, whose Peasant and Greens Union holds 57 of parliament’s 141 seats, will probably maintain “an informal majority,” relying on support from ex-Social Democrats and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, said Rima Urbonaite, a political scientist at Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius.

“We’re getting used to a status of permanent chaos when the government is in a quasi-minority,” Urbonaite said from the capital. “The government’s likely to seek support on each issue backstage, which complicates the environment for any reform.”

Political tensions in the European Union and euro-region member came to a head last month, when the prime minister bypassed coalition partners and won opposition support for legislation including reforms of state-owned companies. Elections aren’t scheduled until 2020 in the Baltic nation of 2.9 million people. While the government approved the 2018 budget this week, the plan still needs the approval of parliament.

Among Social Democrats exiting the party on Saturday: former prime ministers Algirdas Butkevicius and Gediminas Kirkilas.

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