VILNIUS - President Valdas Adamkus on May 23 nominated Povilas Malakauskas, director of the Special Investigation Service, to head the country's State Security Department, which has been shattered by scandals for almost a year. If approved by the Seimas (Lithuania's parliament), Malakauskas would replace Arvydas Pocius, whom Parliament dismissed in a May 8 vote.
Despite the vote, Pocius has continued to head the SSD because there is no provision in Lithuanian law for appointing a temporary head of the department. Pocius can only be replaced by a new head of the SSD, appointed by the president. Before signing a decree on the appointment, however, the president must have Parliament's approval.
To ensure lawmakers' support for Malakauskas' candidacy Adamkus took the unprecedented step of showing up at the parliamentary session in person to introduce him.
"I am here because I am paying quite a lot of attention to the situation surrounding the state institution responsible for security. Political tensions related to the leadership of the State Security Department disturb the operations of this important service and raise many uncertainties among our partners," Adamkus said, speaking from Parliament's rostrum.
"I have spoken with many officers working in the legal and special services areas, and I am once again assured that Malakauskas' qualifications meet all the criteria and requirements. Why do I choose this man? Because I believe that a person who can resist pressure, who knows the operations of the special services, who sees its problems and can find their solutions can head the state security department. I can say with confidence that I see all the above virtues in Malakauskas," Adamkus said.
It is not yet clear, however, whether either Adamkus' presence in Parliament or his speech will be enough to convince lawmakers to vote for Malakauskas. The Labor Party had already earlier announced its skepticism about Malakauskas' candidacy.
Malakauskas, who a few years ago suspended his membership in the right-wing Conservative Party, is also generating suspicion among the Social Democratic Party and its allies in the current ruling coalition.
The leftists' doubts about Malakauskas' candidacy grew when he publicly confirmed his adherence to right-wing ideology a few weeks ago by saying that he uses the right brain hemisphere more often than left.
But Adamkus, when speaking at the parliament, said that it would be worse if a candidate had no political views.
"I believe that it is worse when a person adapts his views to the political situation," the president said.
Malakauskas himself also said that his political views should not be seen as a problem.
"I am not the [kind of] candidate who would renounce his views. But this does not mean I will follow orders given by one political party or another," Malakauskas said at the parliament.
Speaking to journalists after parliament met, Malakauskas said he sees a risk that parliament will reject his candidacy.
At the same time he confirmed that he will leave his current job even if he is not appointed to head the SSD.
After the parliament's meeting Adamkus warned that if Malakauskas is not approved lawmakers will have to find a new candidate themselves.
"It is very clear 's they will have to name a candidate who could convince me and the public that the department is able to operate under his leadership," Adamkus said.
Malakauskas' candidacy will now be discussed in the parliament's committees and political groups. The preliminary vote on Malakauskas is scheduled for June 5.