Uspaskich resigns; fate of coalition unclear

  • 2005-06-21
  • By The Baltic Times
VILNIUS - Viktor Uspaskich resigned his positions as economy minister and MP after an ethics commission found that the Labor Party leader had violated the law on separating public and private interests.

The resignation came after weeks after intense pressure from both Parliament and the presidency, though Uspaskich had held out until the last. But once the Chief Official Ethics Commission ruled last week that the economy minister had supported private business interests through a joint venture proposal with Moscow, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas was forced to ask President Valdas Adamkus to sack the minister.

Under the constitution, ministers are appointed and dismissed by the president at the prime minister's proposal.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Uspaskich was taciturn about his future plans, though he did not rule out running for the single-mandate district that freed up as a result of his resignation. The Central Electoral Commission said that the election would his held this fall.

"I'm not thinking about it at the moment. My only wish is to have free time, take a vacation, have a good time at the seaside, go to my homeland for a week or two, visit my mother, and then I will think," Uspaskich said,

Analysts said that Uspaskich, who said he would appeal the ethics commission's decision in court, may have resigned in order to avoid parliamentary impeachment, which would cut short his political career in accordance to a new law.

It is not clear yet who will replace Uspaskich in the post of economy minister. After the meeting with the president, Brazauskas told journalists that Communications Minister Petras Cesna would be appointed as acting head of the Economy Ministry.

Brazauskas also said that while meeting with Uspaskich,the latter showed him a letter from a rector of Moscow's Plekhanov Academy to Lithuania's ambassador to Russia. The letter gave no specific answer as to whether Uspaskich studied at the academy as he claimed in his resume.

"After it is ascertained, it will be reported to our ambassador," the prime minister said.

The scandal over Uspaskich's diploma erupted last week after the media reported that Uspaskich had not graduated from the academy in 1993.

Meanwhile, the Labor Party leader, who is one of Lithuania's richest me, said that the party council would decide whether it would stay in the coalition.

"There is nothing wrong with the party's council deliberating that matter, but the presidium has agreed that the party should stay with the ruling coalition," Uspaskich said on Tuesday.

Deputy chairman of the party, Viktoras Muntianas, said that the dilemma to stay in the coalition "remains open."