Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 5

Lithuania’s Liberal Union (LU), a major political party representing business interests, has split. Eleven of the party’s parliamentary deputies officially abandoned the LU on January 4 with a view to forming a new organization. The LU has now been reduced from thirty-four to twenty-three in the 141-strong parliament. Those who quit include former Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas, former Finance Minister Jonas Lionginas and former Economics Minister Eugenijus Maldeikis; these second two had served as a tandem in two previous governments.

Paksas, who has enjoyed high popularity ratings in recent years, plans to challenge the incumbent President Valdas Adamkus in the presidential election due later this year. Within the LU, Paksas had recently competed with Eugenijus Gentvilas for the posts of party leader and parliamentary opposition leader; Gentvilas came up from behind to win a protracted intraparty contest last October.

At present, the LU leans in favor of supporting Adamkus for reelection as president. Such support would be vital if, as expected, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas decides to run for president. The LU is “liberal” with respect to free market economics; it corresponds to the type of West European parties described as “non-church going conservatives.” Brazauskas and his Social-Democrat Party, for their part, have the support of some other Lithuanian business groups, some of which have vested interests in the Russian trade (BNS, ELTA, December 28-29, 2001, January 4, 7).

In Latvia, the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (SDWP) is splitting as well. Five of its deputies, led by the SDWP’s parliamentary group leader Egils Baldzens, announced on January 7 that they are forming a new parliamentary group and, on its basis, a new party. The SDWP is thus being reduced from fourteen to nine seats in the 101-seat parliament.

The SDWP’s leaders, such as Juris and Gundars Bojars–father and son–and Janis Adamsons made the split inevitable through their politics. They were reproached for turning the SDWP into a family-run interest group, and seemed to specialize in launching unsubstantiated scurrilous attacks against other political parties and leaders. It was mainly parliamentary immunity that saved certain SDWP deputies from libel suits. Juris Bojars admitted to having been a KGB officer, and Adamsons was a borderline case in that respect. Last year, the SDWP made an alliance with the pro-Moscow bloc, For Human Rights in a United Latvia, with which it formed a majority on the Riga City Council. The group that left the SDWP aspires to be a European-type Social-Democrat party (BNS, LETA, January 4, 7).