VILNIUS - A no-confidence procedure against Parliamentary Speaker Viktoras Muntianas, accused of involvement in a bribery scandal, has progressed to the final stages.
A signature gathering campaign for the speaker's interpellation was initiated by the opposition Labor Party. Labor Party representative Virginija Baltraitiene told the Baltic News Service on March 21 that the document contained the signatures of five Social Democrats, six Social Liberals, one Homeland Union Party member and one Liberal Centerist.
Shortly before the country plunged into another four-day-weekend, the document had been signed by more than 29 members of parliament 's the necessary number for the no-confidence procedure to go to hearing.
The conservatives said they will support the document after the long weekend, but expressed hope that the speaker would resign before then.
Muntianas said he is going "to analyze the entire situation" over the Easter holidays and will then decide.
The Lithuanian-language daily Lietuvos Rytas ran a story on March 20 alleging that Muntianas was involved in a corruption scandal which encompassed the municipality of Kaunas and county governor's administration.
A pretrial investigation on corruption in Kaunas resulted in the detention of Virginijus Vizbaras, first deputy director of Kaunas county governor's administration, by the special investigation service on March 16. Three other people were presented with charges but the prosecutors refuse to give out names of the suspects.
Lietuvos Rytas had managed to obtain video recordings of Muntianas handing money over to Vizbaras. The Special Investigation Service had been monitoring Vizbaras' phone calls for six months and noted that Muntianas called the suspect numerous times over the past few months.
Lithuanian media reported that in one particular video the parliamentary speaker and leader of Civil Democrats ask Vizbaras how much he has to pay for "services." Though Vizbaras said "nothing," Muntianas reached for his pocket and handed a wad of cash to the Kaunas official.
The Civil Democrat leader remarked that he did pay Vizbaras 2,000 litas (EUR 580) in cash for a legal procedure 's the legal validation of a land plot which was subsequently sold to a relative of the parliamentary speaker.
The parliamentary speaker denied any corruption allegations. He told the Parliament on March 20 that he merely compensated costs of measuring the land plot in question.
Egidijus Staselis, the director of land-marking company Geometra, confirmed on March 22 that Vizbaras mediated the ordering of land-measuring operations. The director, however, said he never received any money because the works are not completely finished yet.
Staselis told Kauno Diena that the price for land-measuring in his company is usually about 2,000 litas, and no discounts were applied in this case.
Experts in the field claim that land-measuring costs at least 16, 000 litas and usually takes at least six months.
Prosecutor General Algiman-tas Valantinas did not appear in Parliament on March 20 to comment on the corruption scandal, saying that he would not comment until the investigation is completed.
The interpellation of Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, meanwhile, has stalled.
The Justice and Order opposition party initiated a parliamentary commission on March 20 to investigate the circumstances under which the current government was formed.
Though Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas faces a possible interpellation 's last week he received a no-confidence statement backed by signatures of 58 members of parliament 's he has no intentions to resign.
"I see no grounds for that. The opposition parties are taking measures to interfere with the work of this government. As you are aware, we have had lots of commissions and seven interpellations for ministers. As the election approaches, opposition parties want to influence results of the government's activity in one way or another," Kirkilas said in an interview with Ziniu Radijas news radio.
A no-confidence procedure requires the signatures of at least 29 of Lithuania's 141 members of the parliament. Removal from a post, however, has to be supported by at least 71 parliamentarians.