Coalition quashes commission, incites new wave of anger in opposition

  • 2005-11-16
  • By Milda Seputyte
VILNIUS - Despite the opposition's sudden victory in setting up a commission to investigate Prime Minster Algirdas Brazauskas' family deals, the coalition managed to reign in its forces and have the ad hoc body quashed before it ever got started.

On Nov. 10 Seimas (Lithuania's parliament) decided that it would not form a commission to investigate Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas' family business despite the opposition's success in getting a majority vote on Nov. 8.

Coalition lawmakers were able to dig up a procedural pretext to shield the prime minister from being drilled in Parliament.

The Social Democrats, whose party Brazauskas chairs, stated that there was no sense in forming the commission anymore since the prime minister had answered all the opposition's questions.

The next day 55 MPs backed the opposition Conservatives' proposal for the commission, while 42 members opposed it, and 24 abstained. By law, it was not enough.

Political analysts have begun to refer to Nov. 10 's the day the coalition circumvented lawmakers' initiative 's as "black Thursday," while ruling politicians described it as the beginning of a return to normalcy.

Brazauskas didn't hide his satisfaction. "Seimas has demonstrated its concern about me 's thank you for that," he said, heaving a sigh of relief.

The prime minister had threatened to resign if any commission investigating his family business deals were formed, but after the vote, he said he would keep his post for the time being.

Asked by reporters on Nov. 15 whether he would resign, Brazauskas replied, "Why do you think so? Do you really want this? All in good time."

The prime minister said the scandal has harmed his wife's hotel business and that she intends to take her persecutors to court. "I'm not ready to bear such a burden. I will try to eliminate it with the help of legal methods," Brazauskas said.

Conservative politicians feared that Kristine Brazauskiene's relations with the head of Lukoil Baltija, a gasoline retailer, would influence the government's decision on who should be allowed to acquire a controlling stake in Mazeikiu Nafta, the country's oil refinery. Russia's Lukoil is one of the bidders.

But in terms of damage control, President Valdas Adamkus is concerned about the health of the nation, which seems to have suffered from the deluge of scandals and accusations. He met with both Brazauskas and Parliamentary Chairman Arturas Paulauskas to begin the process of reconciliation. All sides agreed on the need "to alleviate tension and restore peace" in society.

But the Conservatives don't want to have any part of it. "We will not drop this topic," Andrius Kubilius, head of the parliamentary opposition, said.

Parliament's five opposition groups decided to appeal to the ethics and procedure commission to ascertain whether the ruling coalition violated the Seimas statute. They would also appeal to Paulauskas for an opinion.

Analysts' opinions have tended to decry the government's behavior. One went so far as to use the past tense in reference to the current coalition. As Rimvydas Valatka, an analyst with Lietuvos Rytas, said, "In this country's parliamentary history, Nov. 10 will be registered as the day when the last leftovers of Lithuanian politics were burnt."

Political analyst Vladimiras Laucius, in his essay to Omni Laikas, wrote, "Lithuania according to Brazauskas is a true wonderland for politicians dodging responsibility. If you are dirty 's you blame politics for everything, saying that it's politics that's dirty."

Some experts even found parallels with Soviet decision-making. "The present parliamentary ruling majority had to pay a big price for [the Nov. 10] victory. It had to revive the principal inherited from the Soviet nomenclature: the law is of the one who reigns 's a law that is a bludgeon to temper subordinates," commented publicist and professor at Vytautas Magnus University Egidijus Aleksandravicius.

"We have nothing to be happy about 's we witnessed the fall of another hope to see Lithuania's political revival," he said.

MEP Eugenijus Gentvilas, who recently left the Liberal and Centrist Union, said, "The last weeks have become a good example for the younger generation, demonstrating how communist nomenclature used to tackle issues in the Soviet years. Once someone's shoes started burning, a few [members of] the topmost would sit down, pinpoint each others' past sins and come to conclusions that there is no need to a make fuss 's we are all equally sinful."

He added bitterly, "So is it too mild to call Brazauskas a former communist? I think I might just skip 'former' in the future."

Gentvilas added that it was "clear that democratic tools no longer work or even degenerate in the country.