VILNIUS - The field of candidates for the June 13 presidential ballot was significantly trimmed down over the past week, as former President Rolandas Paksas was removed from the race by amendments to the election law and two candidates - both journalists - had their candidacy slammed for failing to collect sufficient signatures.
The publishers of Lithuanian daily newspapers Lietuvos Aidas and Respublika - Algirdas Pilvelis and Vitas Tomkus respectively - failed to collect enough signatures in support of their running for the presidency, according to preliminary results.
Comparisons of the election forms with the register of Lithuanian residents showed that merely 18,000 out of the 23,500 signatures presented by Tomkus were valid. However, the lists have yet to be examined by handwriting experts and Central Electoral Committee Chairman Zenonas Vaigauskas said that an official decision on the signatures would be made later.
Some 19,300 signatures of the 26,300 collected by Pilvelis were invalidated after experts found that one person had made a significant part of them. Specialists say that the invalid signatures amounted to about 70 percent of the total.
Lithuanian laws stipulate criminal liability for forgery.
Aspirants seeking to run in the June 13 elections were to present at least 20,000 signatures supporting their aims to the Central Electoral Committee by midnight on May 8. Eight out of the 10 original aspirants brought in the signature forms.
The committee refused to examine the signatures presented by Rolandas Paksas, who was impeached last month, as Parliament amended the Law on Presidential Elections to eliminate him from the polls.
Paksas filed a complaint to the High Administrative Court against the commission's decision.
The election committee has so far given candidacy registration to acting Parliamentary Chairman Ceslovas Jursenas who presented 28,000 valid signatures.
Signature forms have also been received from former President Valdas Adamkus, former senior European Union negotiator Petras Austrevicius, Social Security and Labor Minister Vilija Blinkeviciute and Farmers and New Democracy Union leader, MP Kazimira Prunskiene.