Unlikely duo to take charge in Lithuania

Former police chief and interior minister Skvernelis, 46, leads a cabinet formed by his Peasants and Green Union (LPGU) and the junior Social Democrats, following his party's surprise election win in October.

Unlikely duo to take charge in Lithuania

World Bulletin / News Desk

Barely two years ago, Lithuania's top policeman Saulius Skvernelis was overhauling his force to wipe out corruption, and millionaire farmer Ramunas Karbauskis was running a doomed campaign to ban foreigners from owning land.

Now the two men in their 40s have top political jobs in the Baltic state, after their outsider Peasants and Green Union (LPGU) party's surprise victory in October's general election.

Skvernelis was sworn in as prime minister on Tuesday, while Karbauskis was elected the party's parliamentary chief last month.

 Skvernelis: top cop turned premier 

 Skvernelis joined the police force as a beat officer in 1998, working his way up to deputy national commander after a decade, then police chief in 2011. 

His wide-ranging reforms targeted corruption and road safety, making a lasting impression that won him respect and popularity.

The 46-year-old launched his political career just two years ago by swapping his uniform for a suit and the office of the interior minister.

After months of speculation, in March he agreed to lead the LPGU election list without formally joining the party.

Never one to shy away from speaking his mind, he has had verbal run-ins with several politicians, including tough-talking Grybauskaite.

"He is a hothead but that is not necessarily a bad thing because to have an impact, you must be passionate," political commentator Ausra Leka told AFP. 

Skvernelis speaks Russian, Polish and limited English. He is married and the father of two, including a son born in August. He likes basketball, Lithuania's national sport, and gardening.

 Karbauskis: farmer turned kingpin  

LPGU party chairman Ramunas Karbauskis grew up on a Soviet state farm run by his father in the western village of Naisiai, an upbringing that shaped his socially conservative values.

He started an agriculture company after Lithuania split from the USSR and soon joined local politics, spending two terms in parliament.

His Agrokoncernas farm services and products group boasted sales worth 400 million euros ($433 million) last year.

In recent years he gained publicity by transforming the village from a derelict state farm into a pastoral wonderland with public gardens and statues of pagan gods.

He thrust himself into the national spotlight by supporting a 2014 referendum on banning the sale of land to foreigners, but it failed due to low turnout.

During the election campaign, Karbauskis focused on social issues, notably fighting alcoholism, setting himself apart from mainstream parties that cited business-friendly policies.

Critics have warned against his pledge to take a more active role in the economy, including an alcohol monopoly and state-owned bank, and staunch opposition to same-sex partnerships.

Karbauskis has refused to formally take any government post, choosing instead to serve as party head and a member of parliament, which has raised questions as to whether he will pull strings behind the scenes.

Karbauskis's wife and two adult sons live in Spain. In his spare time, he enjoys theatre and publishing books. 


Güncelleme Tarihi: 13 Aralık 2016, 17:44