VILNIUS - Lithuania’s Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius says he does not think that the question of the legal immunity lift for MP Neringa Venckiene will pose a threat to the coalition, reports ELTA. The prime minister says that it is the job of responsible institutions to deliberate whether a person is guilty or not.
“I want to say that the coalition is strong and it works unanimously, no adverse affects are possible. Such issues should be discussed in institutions responsible for this job, but not at the Seimas,” said the PM when he was asked how the vote on the legal immunity lift of the former Kaunas district judge, now MP and leader of the party Drasos Kelias (The Way of Courage), Neringa Venckiene, may affect the coalition.
On Dec. 28, Lithuanian Prosecutor General Darius Valys asked the Seimas to allow the persecution of MP Venckiene and a further restriction of her liberty.
Pre-trial investigation data suggests that on Nov. 17, 2010 in Panevezys district court Venckiene publicly humiliated the court administering judge, failed to implement the verdict of the Kedainiai district court of Dec. 16, 2011 when the court ordered that she return her niece who she temporarily fostered to her biological mother Laimute Stankunaite, prevented a bailiff from implementing the court’s decision on May 17, 2012, abused the rights of a child’s representative by mentally traumatizing the child and used violence against a police officer.
Rocky start to government
In a Jan. 3 morning interview on radio Ziniu Radijas, Butkevicius said that his group at the Seimas will be in favor of abolishing the legal immunity of Venckiene. When asked if the ruling coalition would vote unanimously, Butkevicius said “I do not know when it comes to the coalition as we have not yet discussed the issue. But I hope that we will have a meeting during the extraordinary session of the Seimas and then I will know the partners’ position during the vote,” the PM said.
“The ruling coalition has already had some tough challenges in its short time of existence but we all share mutual trust,” the politician said.
Another new face, Dainius Pavalkis, before assuming the post of Education and Science Minister, had to notify President Dalia Grybauskaite about charges against his wife, says chief presidential advisor on legal affairs Rasa Svetikaite.
“We have to turn to the other side of this problem; a candidate minister and other candidates who are public persons must report everything that later might become a subject of public discussion by society and those who appoint them. So this kind of information that might raise questions in society must be revealed before an appointment [is made],” she said in a Tuesday morning interview with radio Ziniu Radijas.
The presidential advisor said that candidates are checked by the special services; yet, their families are not subject to such investigations.
Prime Minister Butkevicius has admitted that while appointing Education and Science Minister Pavalkis to his post, he did not know about a pre-trial investigation into the activities of Pavalkis’ wife. The PM does not rule out that if the minister’s wife is convicted, the question of the minister’s suitability for the post could be raised.
Pavalkis’ spouse, Edita Pavalkiene, appears in a corruption case which has been under investigation for several years now. The woman is accused of massive fraud. The verdict is due on Jan. 18. If convicted, she could spend 3 years in prison.
Building for results
When discussing his new government, Butkevicius says that he completely trusts his Cabinet of Ministers, while the abilities and competence of the new ministers will be revealed over the course of time.
“The expertise and abilities emerge only after some time. Today I am really satisfied with the entire Cabinet. Every minister tries to implement the government’s program, to be more specific, they draft action plans which will be submitted to the government (…) I believe that in the course of time we will able to assess the contribution of every minister to see the results,” the PM said.
Butkevicius also stressed that his goal is to have motivated ministers to achieve the best possible result.
“Only the results speak of one’s expertise. The results say if a person is capable of doing his or her job. It is hard to assess somebody in advance; however, I have full trust in the Cabinet,” he said.
Butkevicius earlier said that he did not see any reason why the new center-left government would not last for 4 years and said that his Cabinet would work for a full term of office. He did not want to comment on the criticism from Grybauskaite, who said that Butkevicius’ government would fail before the end of its tenure.
Grybauskaite, in a yearly interview with the magazine Veidas, said that economic growth heightens the risk that the new government might collapse before the end of its 4-year term of office.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Labor Party, Viktor Uspaskich, who for a long time had been among the politicians that Lithuanians said they would most of all like to see in the prime minister’s post, has now watched his popularity rating fall.
Less than 10 percent of those polled thought of Uspaskich as the best one to head the government. Political scientist Ramunas Vilpisauskas thinks that Uspaskich himself contributed to the harsh fall of his rating.
A poll by the public opinion and market research company Spinter Tyrimai carried out for Delfi on Dec. 12 - 18 shows that currently there is only one politician who more than 10 percent of residents would like to see in the prime minister’s post: the current PM Butkevicius. His party is also leading in the party ratings.
The Head of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University Ramunas Vilpisauskas thinks that the Labor Party’s chairman is the one to be blamed for his own fall in ratings. It is likely that such was the Lithuanians’ reaction to Uspaskich’s public statements during the story of abolishing his legal immunity at the Seimas.
“This would be the most likely guess. Of course, they remain only guesses in such cases. I think that the way he behaved and the fact that almost all political experts called his actions a mockery of the Seimas most probably influenced the changes in public opinion,” he said to Delfi.
Dissent at the top
Prime Minister Butkevicius says that neither Russia, nor the U.S. should be ignored, referring to the statement made by Seimas Speaker Vydas Gedvilas, who said that Lithuania should coordinate relations with Russia and “take care of its people.”
“Good relationships, as far as possible, should be maintained with our neighbors as well as with the United States. I think that we should not ignore anyone,” said the PM on Jan. 7.
“It is sad that [Seimas Speaker] Vydas Gedvilas decided to criticize Hillary Clinton in public, saying that the U.S. does not understand Lithuania’s interests and that we do not need its help. Indeed, the United States of America is and will be one of the key guarantees of Lithuania’s security,” said former Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Azubalis.
Azubalis points out that such Seimas speaker’s statements about the coordination of relations with Russia in order to “take care of the people,” not only destroy the image of Lithuania as an independent state in the eyes of the Western community, but also distort the foundation of quality Lithuanian and Russian cooperation.