VILNIUS - The Labor Party, currently under investigation for nontransparent bookkeeping, took another blow last week when the Election Commission revoked the party's right to receive more than 1 million litas (289,620 euros) in state subsidies. Entitled by law to distribute state support for political parties, the commission decided on Nov. 14 that the Labor Party would not be granted its 1.11 million litas as members had "grossly violated the law."
"[In order to receive] their share of the funds, parties had to present income documents. The Labor Party failed to hand in its journal reflecting party income and expenditure and was also a few months late in submitting their declaration," Viktoras Rinkevicius, deputy chairman of the Election Commission, told The Baltic Times.
"Based on the current legislation, the commission decided that this was a gross violation of the law and to deprive the Labor Party of its state subsidy," he added.
According to law, political parties supported by more than 3 percent of the electorate shall receive state subsidies. The funding is distributed by the Election Commission twice a year.
This year's subsidy is 10 million litas, half of which was distributed in March 2006 between nine parties based on the results of 2002's municipal elections and 2004's parliamentary elections.
The Labor Party enjoyed the largest subsidy 's 1.11 million litas 's as it garnered some 20 percent of the vote in Lithuania's parliamentary elections. In comparison, the Social Democrat Party and conservative Homeland Union received 715,000 litas and 681,000 litas, respectively.
Since no elections were held during the first half of 2006, the parties are being granted the same amount.
Rinkevicius said this was the first time Labor had been denied its annual funding.
The commission later decided to distribute the Labor Party's subsidy among the eight remaining parties, as the money must be allocated, Rinkevicius said. The Social Democrat Party and Conservatives received the lion's share with more than 230,000 litas each.
Meanwhile, Labor Party members, determined to recover the funding lost, argue that the commission's decision was unjust.
"We will file a complaint with the court this week and ask that the commission not distribute our subsidy to other parties until after the court's ruling. Of course, we will also ask that the commission's decision be recalled," Labor Party Chairman Kestutis Dauksys told The Baltic Times.
He added that the party questioned the Election Commission's voting procedure, where the chair determines the final vote.
"We do not see the violation we are accused of as 'a gross violation' and believe that the court will make a just decision," Dauksys said.
The Labor Party has recently been fighting a battle on several fronts. Prosecutors investigating shady Labor Party book-keeping procedures are set to bring their case to court by December.
Former Economy Minister Viktor Uspaskich, who also chaired and founded the Labor Party, is currently hiding out in Moscow on charges of fraud. Earlier this fall, Lithuanian authorities issued an international arrest warrant for Uspaskich. He was arrested in Moscow on Sept. 15, and then subsequently released on bail.
Many believe Uspaskich will never return to Lithuania as he has requested political asylum in Russia.
But Dauksys, speaking at the briefing on Nov. 21, said it was the Election Commission's decision that kept Uspaskich from returning.
"I met with Uspaskich on [Nov. 20] and he said that he was determined to return to Lithuania but the politicization of certain issues stopped him from doing so," Dauksys said.