The largest political prey of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania?icelds
After joining the government coalition in July 2019 and receiving two ministerial positions , the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – the Christian Families Alliance (EAPL-CFA, Polish: Akcja Wyborcza Polaków na Litwie – Związek Chrześcijańskich Rodzin, Lithuanian: Lietuvos lenkų rinkimų akcija – Krikščioniškų šeimų sąjunga) got the largest political prey since the restoration of the Lithuanian independence. However, somewhat surprisingly, the negotiations within the new governing coalition did not produce any concrete results for national minorities, although the EAPL-CFA is a national minority party per se. How this could be explained?
For many years the number of ethnic Polish representatives in the Lithuanian Seimas would fluctuate between one and four MPs. This had changed in 2012 when the party of the largest national minority in Lithuania under the leadership of Waldemar Tomaszewski finally managed to overcome the electoral threshold of five percent. The EAPL won eight parliamentary seats and got one ministry in the government of premier Algirdas Butkevičius  The electoral victory of the Polish minority party could be largely explained by the successful mobilization of voters outside of the Polish minority – it managed to attract the voters of the Russian and other minority communities. In the last parliamentary elections, the EAPL got eight parliamentary seats again. However, two ministries negotiated in July of this year crown all the political achievements of the Polish minority so far.
This largest political prey in terms of ministerial positions, however, does not seem to translate into serving any specific minority interests. Programmatically, the EAPL usually demands a better financing of schools in the countryside and recognition of foreign school certificates, bilingualism in areas where ethnic minority makes more than 10 percent of the local population, more rights in the local administration and acceleration of the land property restitution giving priority to the returned land over the financial compensation. In addition to this, one has to mention that since 2010 Lithuania does not have a functioning law for national minorities which affects the Polish minority more than any other ethnic community in Lithuania.
The newest government coalition, which also includes the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (Lithuanian: Lietuvos valstiečių ir žaliųjų sąjunga), the Social Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos socialdemokratų darbo partija) and the Party Order and Justice (Lithuanian: Partija tvarka ir teisingumas) did not agree to satisfy most of the requirements above. The main deal the coalition managed to negotiate and present to the voters is the free lunch for children at pre-school and the first-year school institutions, better benefits for pregnant women, an increase of the so-called children money to 70 Euro a month, no tuition fees for BA studies and free medication for the seniors older than 75 years. With regard to minorities, the coalition treaty mentions only that the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities has to be guaranteed. Still, the EAPL decided to join the coalition. What is the rationale behind? Why is it more profitable to join it than not to join?
The control of ministries of internal affairs and transport could bring certain advantages to the Polish minority. Having the ministry of transport could be an advantage in improving the roads in the areas inhabited by the Polish minority. The ministry of internal affairs takes care of the administration of local municipalities in Lithuania. Therefore, this could be a valuable resource for improving the situation in municipalities with large proportions of citizens belonging to the Polish minority. This could be seen as a some sort of short-term pragmatism in providing benefits to own voters before the Seimas election next year.
However, the specific minority demands listed above will not be forgotten by the EAPL and will certainly appear in its electoral campaign for the parliamentary seats next year. They will be definitely spelled out not only in mobilizing the voters from the Polish community but also in attracting the votes of ethnic Russians and Belarusians. This will be especially important if the Polish minority party will have to compete with the Labour Party (Lithuanian: Darbo Partija) , led by a charismatic ethnic Russian Viktor Uspaskich.
 The positions in question are the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Transport. The designated ministers are Jarosław Narkiewicz, serving his third parliamentary term in the Lithuanian Seimas, and Władysław Kondratowicz, the current head of the political group for the road transport and civil aviation at the Ministry of Transport.
 The EAPL got the Ministry for Energy Resources, it was headed by the minister Jarosław Niewierowicz from 2012 to 2014. He was fired on 19 August 2014 after he proposed his party member Renata Cytacka to the position of vice-minister without consulting premier Butkevičius.
 Lithuania was the first country in Central and Eastern Europe to adopt a specific law on national minorities in 1989. However, the law ceased to exist in 2010, no new law regulating the activities of national minorities since then was adopted. See: Hanna Vasilevich (2013), “Lithuania’s Minority-Related Legislation: Is There a Legal Vacuum?”, ECMI Working Paper No.70.
 More information on the new coalition treaty signed on 5 July 2019 can be found at: Naujoji koalicija skelbia savo darbų sąrašą, LRT.lt, 05.07.2019. The coalition treaty also contains a provision that Lithuania has to implement the Framework Convention for National Minorities.
 The Labour Party did not pass the five percent threshold in 2016. Its founder Viktor Uspaskich abstained from active participation in politics at that time.
Image: The Seimas Palace in Vilnius, Credit: Marcin Białek (CC BY-SA 3.0).