Adamkus suggests that both Uspaskich, Zuokas resign posts

  • 2005-06-01
  • By Milda Seputyte
VILNIUS - President Valdas Adamkus finally put his foot down during Lithuania's most recent scandal and asked opposing sides 's two of the country's top political leaders 's to resign.

In a nationally televised address on May 30, the president said that he had lost confidence in Economy Minister Viktor Uspaskich and Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas. Although the president did not name either politician, it was clear in which direction the wind was blowing.

"Recently, there has been much discussion about the mutual allegations between the two leaders of parliamentary parties. This sorting out of political relations damages the interest of the state and the municipality and discredits them in the eyes of the public," the president said. "Bearing witness to it, I address law enforcement institutions and urge them to investigate immediately the disturbing suspicions and to present their legal assessments."

Uspaskich heads the Labor Party, a ruling coalition partner, and Zuokas the Liberal and Centrist Union, which is currently in the opposition. The two millionaire politicians have accused each other of corruption and promoting their own business interests while in office.

"In my turn, following the rules of political ethics, I must say that the suspicions that are given public deliberation, even without being legally assessed, undermine the people's and my own confidence in the politicians involved with the conflict," Adamkus said.

"Therefore, I am inviting and urging them to take political responsibility and to draw conclusions and make appropriate decisions for the sake of moral politics."

The president was particularly disturbed that the scandal has distracted Parliament from its core activity of adopting legislation that the country sorely needs.

After the speech, Uspaskich, whose actions are now being investigated in three parliamentary commissions, said he wasn't yet willing to resign. "I must wait until the end of the parliamentary investigation. I bear responsibility both for the Labor Party and the parliamentary faction; therefore, I cannot dodge liability," he said.

Zuokas declared he did not hear any prompt for him to resign, but later he said he was deliberating whether to resign his post as Vilnius mayor.

"I'm considering the possibility of resigning, and I'll start talks with the colleagues of my party and members of the Vilnius municipality. It wouldn't be difficult to make the decision for me personally, but I do feel responsibility to my colleagues, employees and residents of the city," said Zuokas.

Meanwhile, reactions to the president's address ranged from clear ignorance to enthusiastic encouragement. The Labor Party faction in Parliament said it did not see grounds for Uspaskich's resignation.

"Contrarily to Zuokas' case, there isn't a single official document that would confirm the economy minister's conflict of public and personal interests," said faction head Loreta Grauziniene. "The interim parliamentary commissions have started the investigation, and they will conclude it if suspicions against Uspaskikh are grounded."

Deputy Chairman of the Liberal Centrist Union Gintaras Steponavicius said he regarded the president's speech as a "rather clear prompt to resign."

"The president's declaration was made just in time, and it reflects the expectations of the people," he admitted. The Liberal Centrist Union, in contrast to the Labor Party, has been beset by internal squabbling, and Zuokas' support within the party is shaky.

Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas refused to comment on the matter, releasing instead a statement that he was adhering to the principle of "mum's-the-word" when it comes to presidential statements and actions.

Meanwhile, political experts criticized the president's speech for being too mild-mannered. Lietuvos Rytas analyst Rimvydas Valatka questioned the president's choice not to mention the two politicians' names. He also said he regretted that, due to the circumspect manner of the speech, it failed to become a turning point in putting an end to the ongoing scandal.