VILNIUS - Cornered by both the president and public opinion, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas went on live TV last week to clear up questions about his family business and prove that he "is not emotionally broken."
But the goal of providing answers turned into a half-hour monologue that, in the opinion of many observers, only exacerbated the head of government's position.
Anyone was allowed to send questions to the prime minister by e-mail or a special toll-free line. In theory, at least, Brazauskas was supposed to have answered these questions during the live broadcast. Nothing of the sort happened.
During the address, the prime minister said he had received some 450 questions, a quarter of which were related to the privatization of Crown Plaza Hotel (formerly the Draugyste), which is owned by his wife.
Brazauskas, however, didn't read even one question, which even his closest partners found disappointing.
The prime minister called accusations made against him unjustified and said that he did not know why people were attacking him. In his words, he has not been in business for 15 years. He had represented the public service sector for nearly 50 years, he said, but never before had faced such unfounded accusations.
"I have held public posts and believe that I performed those duties in a very responsible way. Mixing me in the business matters of my family is an absolutely unjust thing," he commented.
The prime minister emphasised that it was not he, but his wife, who runs a business. He denied that his spouse, Kristina, could have been involved in the scandalous concern EBSW. Nor did he admit to having a role in the Crowne Plaza Hotel privatization.
Today, one thing is clear: the address did not live up to expectations. Even President Valdas Adamkus, who earlier urged Brazauskas to deliver a public address, has criticized the performance.
"The answer that the prime minister gave yesterday did not meet my expectations, nor the people's. I suppose that nobody received the answers that we had hoped for 's the answers that should have cleared all doubts and restored confidence in the authorities of our state," the president said.
The cabinet chief's half-hour "monologue" disappointed both the opposition and coalition partners.
The ruling majority was unhappy with the form of the statement, and the Social Democrats themselves can't understand why the prime minister was advised to choose such a boring and feeble form of monologue. Members may try to convince Brazauskas to make a new statement, at least in the form of a dialogue or discussion.
Coalitional partner and Parliamentary Chairman Arturas Paulauskas criticized Brazauskas' speech, saying it lacked specifics. "My positive remark is that the prime minister did it sincerely 's one could tell he was worried and tried to speak from his heart, to show his feelings. I had the impression that the speech wasn't specific, he didn't read several questions sent by people and didn't give answers to them," the parliamentary chairman said.
In the meantime, prosecutors examining the circumstances behind the privatization of Draugyste Hotel announced that both the prime minister and his wife would be called to testify in December. Head of the pre-trail investigation, prosecutor Ramutis Jancevicius, hasn't yet named any suspects in this case.
"Today I can't name any suspects. It's difficult to tell in the beginning who is guilty 's the one who sells a bad commodity or the one who buys a bad commodity knowing that it's bad," the prosecutor was quoted as saying.
The social democratic leader assured that he would give testimony to the prosecutors', however, he also added that he hadn't been called yet. "I will never refuse to give testimony to law enforcement institutions," Brazauskas told journalists at a press conference. "I will testify when asked."