Maizitis finds support for re-election

  • 2005-03-02
  • By Aaron Eglitis
RIGA - The media campaign directed against General Prosecutor Janis Maizitis received a slight boost when another state prosecutor wrote an open letter chastising him. But despite criticism, Maizitis' reelection was moved forward by nearly a week to March 3, nine days before municipal elections.

The letter, written by prosecutor Guntis Akmenkalns, alleged that recently prosecutors have had less freedom, and that time should be taken to properly evaluate the work Maizitis had accomplished during his five-year term.

On Feb. 25 Parliament's legal committee cleared the way for the reelection vote to be moved to March 3 's well before Maizitis' term runs up in early May.

Maizitis' reelection for another five-year term looked likely as The Baltic Times went to press. The two largest parties in Parliament, New Era and the People´s Party, said they would support the prosecutor, although the ballot would be a secret one.

Last year political parties promised to support Juta Strike, then head of the anti-corruption bureau. However, when the vote was announced, she was never confirmed.

Akmenkalns' letter came shortly after the weekly television show "Kas Notiek Latvija" (What is happening in Latvia) discussed the controversy. The debate included faction heads from the four coalition parties: head of the supreme court Andris Gulans, Janis Maizitis, Armands Puce from Neatkariga Rita Avize (the newspaper responsible for much of the controversy), and Maija Kule, a professor who signed the letter in support of Maizitis.

Janis Lagzdins, faction head of the People's Party, questioned the reasons behind moving the date forward on the show. However, he threw the weight of his party behind Maizitis on Feb. 28, after meeting with the candidate and announcing their support as a favor to President Vaira Vike-Freiberga.

Lagzdins admitted that the vote in support of Maizitis "was not unequivocal," but since the meeting was closed to the public, the level of support remained unknown. He also said that Maizitis had not done enough to combat organizations responsible for inciting national hatred, such as the radical anti-school reform organization Shtab.

The support of the People's Party has been difficult to gauge. Many took Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis' statement that Maizitis had not done enough to fight money laundering as a symbol of eroded or non-existing support. In addition, the People's Party has continually asked Maizitis to publicize the name of anyone who has warned him about an investigation.

Arno Pjatkins, spokesman for Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, said that the People's Party would support Maizitis, and that his reelection was likely.

Meanwhile New Era, the other large party in the coalition, also promised its support for the general prosecutor after meeting him on the same day. Faction head Karlis Sardurskis was less equivocal when he appeared on television, repeatedly asking, "Where is the scandal?"

Controversy around Maizitis erupted after the daily Neatkariaga continually ran articles accusing the general prosecutor of acting illegally when he gave information to then-American Ambassador to Latvia Brian Carlson, after the latter requested it.

The American Embassy, however, denounced the accusations against Maizitis. Noted politicians and members of the intelligentsia openly backed his re-nomination, pushing for his election to take place before municipal ones to ensure that parties would either respond to the public's wishes or risk being punished at the polls.

Many have pointed to the western port city of Ventspils, which the owners of Neatkariaga have close ties to, as being responsible for the media attack. Mayor Aivars Lembergs is widely believed to be connected with the newspaper, and has publicly attacked Maizitis in the past for requesting legal assistance from Swiss authorities in an effort to uncover the true owners of several Latvian businesses domiciled there.