Last week was arguably the most dramatic in Lithuanian politics since Rolandas Paksas was impeached in April 2004. On Nov. 8, opposition lawmakers who motioned to set up a commission to look into the family business deals of Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas failed to gain enough votes to proceed. However, two hours later, they managed to convince 20 of their colleagues to vote in favor of the ad hoc commission.
It was a dramatic reversal of fortunes, and by the end of the day the prime minister was sweating bullets.
But not so fast. Coalition lawmakers struck back two days later and, using a technicality in parliamentary procedures, were able to abolish the commission before it was ever established. Pro-government lawmakers won the day and saved the prime minister, who had threatened to resign if anyone dared investigate his family's business affairs.
Naturally, the Conservative-led opposition was in horror. As Homeland Union leader Andrius Kubilius encapsulated the situation: "If the rights of the parliamentary minority depend on the will of the majority, then we have a controlled democracy and should be speaking about Belarus rather than a European state."
The majority's justification for quashing the commission 's "it would have paralyzed the government's work for a month" 's is absurd. If the government has no qualms about probing one of its own ministers (Viktor Uspaskich) over his education, then why is it so afraid of legitimate concerns over exactly who the prime minister's wife is conducting her business with? The holier-than-thou attitude that Brazauskas and his allies are displaying is despicable, and will likely end in their demise.
But the country is exhausted. In recent months Lithuanians have been treated to the gamut of political dirt: KBG reservists, falsified diplomas, influence peddling, conflict of interests. The nation's largest corporation is up for sale, and with the copious amount of filth flying among politicians, no one believes in a fair deal. Indeed, the populace is so fed up with the public acrimony that the level of cynicism has no doubt reached new lows. It may be more than just irony that BBC World Radio this week featured a report on why Lithuania has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
President Valdas Adamkus has expressed his deep concern with the nation's state of health, and this week he is meeting with party leaders to figure out a solution. Under normal circumstances, one could say that this is politics as usual 's boys will be boys 's but on the background of the imminent sale of Mazeikiu Nafta, the situation is dire. The refinery accounts for over 10 percent of the nation's GDP, and, compared with the past, the country can ill afford any mistakes as it selects a new strategic investor. With so much at stake, Lithuanians have the right to know exactly what the prime minister's family business is about. It's called transparency, and it is one of the guarantors of a stable democracy.