VILNIUS - Defense Minister Gediminas Kirkilas was elected prime minister on July 4 as parliamentarians on both the right and left threw their support behind the Social Democrat in an attempt to bring stability to Lithuania's fractured political arena. Kirkilas, who was nominated last week by President Valdas Adamkus, was supported by 86 MPs from the Social Democrats, Liberal/Center Union, the New Union, the Civil Democracy Party and the National Farmers' Union.
Even a handful of Laborites, who had threatened to vote against the PM candidate on suspicions involving a graduate diploma, changed their minds at the last minute and voted for Kirkilas. Thirteen voted against the candidate and five abstained.
On the eve of the vote, the Labor Party tried to sabotage Kirkilas' candidacy by casting doubt on the veracity of his university diploma. The party asked Adamkus to recall the candidate.
But both Vilnius University and the International Business School confirmed that Kirkilas was enrolled. "Kirkilas was admitted to the International Business School of Vilnius University in 2002 in accordance with the rules for admission that were in effect," read a letter sent by a university dean to Parliamentary Speaker Viktoras Muntianas.
But the broad show of support, coming just two weeks after parliamentarians failed to muster a majority for acting Prime Minister Zigmantas Balcytis, also a Social Democrat, seemed to suggest that Kirkilas might be able to form a majority government.
The Social Democrats, the National Farmers' Union, the Civil Democracy party and the Liberal Centrists, who have formed a 53-member center-left coalition, will likely form the backbone of the next government, but Kirkilas said on July 4 that he hoped to form a majority government.
In the defense minister's words, the vote opens opportunities for forming a majority government. At the same time, he reiterated that "so far a minority government is being formed" and hinted that the embattled Labor Party would not be represented in the new Cabinet, although pointing out that parliamentary posts were a completely different matter.
Kirkilas also said that the Social Liberals' unanimous support and clear stance was a "good way to start new cooperation."
The party dropped out of the previous coalition after the Laborites supported a motion of no-confidence, initiated by the opposition, in former Parliamentary Chairman Arturas Paulauskas. The Social Liberals took umbrage that the Social Democrats remained in the coalition with the "perfidious Laborites" and went on to cooperate with the Conservatives.
But that scandal eventually snowballed into even more serious allegations, until finally Algirdas Brazauskas was forced to resign as prime minister.
The Conservatives abstained from voting on July 4.
Kirkilas did not reveal whether the Social Democrats would aim to keep the existing ministerial portfolios in the government, adding that the Social Democrats should hold most posts in the government under the coalition agreement and the responsibility they have assumed.
Following the president's decree of appointment, the PM-designate has 15 days to present a president-approved government and a governmental program to Parliament.
Adamkus expressed hope that Kirkilas would keep his promises to form a transparent, efficient and responsible government. His spokeswoman, Rita Grumadaite, said the president was glad that parliamentary groups "took a constructive position in approving the candidate for prime minister at the parliament."
"The president tasks the future government with speeding up necessary reforms and using European Union's funds efficiently for the good of the people of Lithuania," Grumadaite said.
Asked about the Labor Party's charges over his education, Kirkilas said there had been no agreements on this matter. "I believe this was due to our principled stance we had taken. Probably the Labor Party held a discussion within the party and made the decision," said Kirkilas.