Speaking not so easy in Baltics

  • 2008-03-27
  • Mike Collier in cooperation with BNS

SPEAK OUT: Muntianas quit to clear his name after reports linked him to a corruption scandal. (Photo: Office of the Seimas)

VILNIUS 's As if members of Lithuania's ruling coalition didn'thave enough on their plates at the moment, they now face the task of appointinga new parliamentary speaker after the sudden resignation of Viktoras Muntianason March 26.

There is no specific candidate at this point, but all parliamentary groups inthe ruling coalition will have the opportunity to nominate their candidates,Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said in a radio interview soon afterMuntianas quit.

"The ruling coalition will discuss this issue. All parliamentary groupswill lay claims, all have deputy parliamentary speakers in the Seimas, whocould assume office as parliamentary speakers," Kirkilas said.

The prime minister gave his word that the new parliamentary speaker will beelected "in the nearest future".

The incumbent parliamentary speaker Viktoras Muntianas stepped down afterhis name became linked with a conflict-of-interest scandal, though he hasdenied any wrongdoing and said he is being subjected to "politicalcrucifiction." Reports linked him to alleged bribery of an official inKaunas County. Muntianas says the payment was not a bribe but a legitimate paymentfor legal services.

Parliamentary speakers in the Baltic enjoy a colorfulexistence. Last year, Latvian parliamentary speaker Indulis Emsis of the Greens and Farmers' Union resigned after becomingembroiled in a bizarre series of events involving a bagful of cash, a false policestatement and a new tractor.

However, in Estonia, the incumbent speaker, Ene Ergma, hasbeen enjoying a much more pleasant few days.

The Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) member, wasreelected as speaker of the Estonianparliament on March 27.

Being the sole candidate, Ergma was given 83 votes for and two against inthe 101-seat chamber. Two ballots were declared invalid.

Under the coalition agreement, the speaker's chair belongs to IRL.

The 64-year-old former astrophysicist has been a member of the parliament'sboard since 2003. She served as speaker from 2003-2006 and as second vicespeaker from 2006-2007. Ergma was chosen as speaker again by the new parliamentelected in the general elections of spring 2007.

Deputies are also to vote on the two deputy speakers of the Riigikogu in theannual election Thursday.

The office of first deputy speaker belongs to the Reform Party, seniormember of the ruling three-party coalition, whose parliamentary group decidedon Tuesday to nominate Kristiina Ojuland for reelection to the job she currentlyholds.