OPPS: A major split in the largest opposition parliamentary group in the Lithuanian Seimas

A collective switch towards a formation of a new party

Picture by: Darius Janutis. Source: infolex.lt.

Ten MPs from the party group of the Peasants and Greens Union, the largest opposition party group in Lithuanian Seimas, declared on the 7th of September that they are creating a new parliamentary group “Democrats – For Lithuania”. The new group is led by former Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis. It was joined by further three MPs from the “mixed” parliamentary group including another former Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius.

The former members of the Peasants and Greens Union parliamentary group have accused the leader of the party, Ramūnas Karbauskis, for excluding them from the decision-making in the parliamentary group and party and pursuing the course of unnecessary polarisation with the centre-right government. The faction includes some of the more liberal Peasant and Green MPs who have recently challenged Karbauskis’ conservative positions on single-sex partnership legislation.

Skvernelis was not a member of the Peasants and Greens Union but played a key role in its electoral victory in the 2016 parliamentary election and served as its prime minister in 2016-2020. The departure of Skvernelis and his supporters weakens the parliamentary influence of the Peasants and Greens, leaving them with only 22 out of 67 opposition MPs, and may also be related to its drop in public opinion polls from 15 to 10 percent. The split also signals party’s definite shift from the catch-all appeal – most prominent in the 2016 election – to the socially conservative ideological positions and populist rhetoric.

The role of the new party group in the next parliamentary election in 2024 remains to be clarified. Initially stating that it is too early to discuss the creation of a new party, representatives of the new parliamentary faction did not deny reports that the establishment of the party is in process. In the meantime, the split of the Peasants and Greens Union seems to have been most beneficial for the opposition Social Democrats which, after electoral defeats in 2016 and 2020, are leading in the polls again.