Zuokas defiant in face of colleagues' criticism

  • 2004-12-01
  • Baltic News Service
VILNIUS - The board of the Liberal and Center Union, which is currently beset by infighting, has decided to propose holding a congress on Feb. 12 to elect a new chairman.
"I think that a majority of the party's board members approve of some changes in the party and the election of party chairman," the former deputy chairman of the party, Eugenijus Gentvilas, told journalists after the Nov. 29 meeting, adding that the vote was unanimous.

The decision was made after the current party leader, Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas, rejected Gentvilas' proposal to resign and a statement by the group's parliamentary faction and board members supporting the election of a new chairman was read. According to official information, the statement was signed by Kestutis Glaveckas, deputy chairman of the party, and Petras Austrevicius, the party's number-one candidate on the parliamentary list.

During the meeting, Zuokas was accused of not only deviating from the party's core values, but also of autocracy and disregard for others' opinions.

The Liberal and Center Union leader, who has stated that his tenure would expire in May of next year, said that under the merger agreement signed by the Liberals, the Centrists and the Modern Christian Democrats in 2003, elections for party chairman would have to be held within four months after the October parliamentary elections.

Zuokas told journalists he had not yet decided whether to run for party chairman in February, although he said he did not intend to resign before the congress. Zuokas added that only a minority of the board members were demanding his resignation.

"If there had been more of them, the decision would probably have been different today," he said.

For his part, Gentvilas, who urged the Vilnius mayor to resign, said he had no intention to run for the position. He proposed Gintaras Steponavicius, a member of the parliamentary faction of the Liberal and Center Union and a former deputy parliamentary chairman, for the post.

The February party congress should also address changes in the party's program and possibly even its name.

The date and agenda of the congress still must be approved by the party council, which will convene on Dec. 11.