Parliamentary speaker on thin ice

The Baltic Times
Laima Vaiga, VILNIUS

The speaker of Lithuania”s parliament, Viktoras Muntianas, is in danger of loosing his post after several days of political shakeups have eroded his support.

The changes come in the wake of the Social Liberal Party”s joining the country”s ruling coalition, which is in some cases loosening smaller parties” hold on power within the parliament, as well as other shifts in party allegiances.

The largest blow to Muntianas, who heads the Civil Democratic Party, came on Jan. 28 when fellow party member Romas Venclovas unexpectedly defected to the Labor Party.

Lithuanian press had reported on Jan. 22 that if any member of the Civil Democrats” faction decided to leave, the faction would collapse and Muntianas could loose his post.

In another significant move, Civil Democrat MP Algimantas Matulevicius dramatically resigned from his job as chairman of the parliamentary National Defense and Security Committee on Jan. 29, preempting his forced removal from the position.

According to Lithuanian media, Matulevicius” position was one of the posts promised to Social Liberals for joining the ruling coalition.

“The choices are: either stitch up your mouth and sit still, or its time to get out,” Matulevicius said at a press conference.

The parliamentary speaker has been equally straightforward in his remarks on recent developments.

Days before the resignation, when it looked like Matulevicius” position was in danger, Muntianas was widely quoted in the press as saying, “when there”s a risk of rape, it”s better to surrender.”

The prospects of the Civil Democrats have taken a turn for the worse since the start of the year. On Jan. 16 they separated from their joint faction with the Peasant Popular Union rather than merging with the party as earlier planned. Now the party is one member short of the seven requirement to form a faction.

Adding insult to injury, when the Social Democrats and Social Liberals on Jan. 28 finally met to sign the agreement for the Social Liberals” joining the coalition, the Civil Democrat party members were not invited to the signing ceremony.

“That wasn”t nice,” said Muntianas, noting the signatories could have waited until Civil Democracy party”s presidium approved of a coalition enlargement, Lietuvos Zinios reported on Jan. 29.