VILNIUS - On Aug. 21, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite had an icy meeting with Parliament Chairman Arunas Valinskas, held at the request of the latter. On the eve of the meeting, the president said that Valinskas "should take political responsibility" because of media information regarding his contacts with members of the most notorious Lithuanian criminal gang. Translating this from diplomatic language, Grybauskaite asked him to resign. However, Valinskas seems to be lost in translation and is staying in his post.
Later on the same day, during a short briefing, Grybauskaite was even more straightforward. "Now is the right time to resign, not waiting until the parliament will make a decision on it," she said, speaking about Valinskas. Later in the evening, Valinskas issued a press release stating that the parliament is an independent institution and it is up to parliament to make such decisions.
In the media Valinskas is accused of communicating with Rolandas Michalskis, alias Micha, who is an alleged member of the Kaunas-based Daktarai gangster group. Michalskis' wife and her sister are active members of Valinskas' political party in the Kaunas region.
Valinskas' contacts with the Kaunas mob have not always been so bright. According to daily Lietuvos Rytas, in 1992, in the Kaunas restaurant Vilija, the current parliamentary chairman was severely beaten by Rimantas Ganusauskas, alias Mongolas, because of showing no respect to the mafia's traditional family values 's Valinskas dared to dance with Mongolas' wife in that restaurant.
The Daktarai gang was created in the Soviet era. This criminal group reached the peak of power in early 1990s. Later, its alleged leader Henrikas Daktaras, alias Henyte, was periodically spending his time behind bars while the group's influence in the Kaunas region declined.
Now he is hiding from Lithuanian police 's probably in Spain, according to some speculation in the local media. Henyte is more famous in Lithuania than don Corleone and Tony Soprano combined. An old photo of Valinskas and Henyte drinking together is constantly shown on TV news. The photo was made when Valinskas was still a TV showman, not a politician. Valinskas said that all these relations were occasional and have no impact on his current work.
The Lithuanian Chief Prosecutor's Office and State Security Department states that they have no information about Valinskas' wrongdoings, from a legal standpoint. However, Grybauskaite and the parliamentary opposition insist that in the case of politicians, some higher moral standard should be applied. The vote of non-confidence, which would decide the political career of Valinskas, is expected to be held in the parliament this fall, as now MPs are on vacation. The information regarding Valinskas' suspicious connections probably was released to the media by rivals inside his party.
There is a crack in this second-largest party of the ruling center-right coalition. The National Resurrection Party, which was one of four parties that created the currently ruling center-right coalition, is falling apart. The party's leader Valinskas holds the prestigious post as parliament's chairman. According to the constitution, the parliament chairman can even become acting president of the country in case the current president is unable to continue his or her functions.
On July 15, Valinskas' party did split into two after a severe quarrel within the faction. Valinskas and his six followers left the parliamentary faction of the National Resurrection Party. The six MPs loyal to Valinskas formed a separate group and called it the Oak faction. Thirteen MPs stayed in the National Resurrection Party. To add even more humor to the story, Valinskas remains the leader of the National Resurrection Party.
"It is an ideological split. One faction stands on the basis of the ideology of oakism while another remains faithful to resurrectionism," political analyst Vladimiras Laucius ironically commented on Lithuanian public radio.
Since leaving his party's faction, Valinskas, talking to mass media, refers to the leaders of his former faction as 'parasitic elements.' Ironically, after the first round of the last fall's parliamentary election, he was extremely critical to those MPs who left their faction. "We'll propose a law which would forbid MPs who are elected from the party lists to switch their political faction in the parliament, which was a common practice during the previous years," Valinskas told The Baltic Times back in the fall of 2008 after the first round of the parliamentary election.
Political analysts emphasize that now Valinskas' faction has the post of parliament chairman, occupied by Valinskas himself, and two posts of ministers in the government 's the posts of minister of culture and minister of environment, while the National Resurrection Party parliamentary faction holds no high posts though both factions do not intend on leaving the center-right coalition. It means that in the coming fall, Andrius Kubilius, prime minister and leader of the Homeland Union'sChristian Democrats, will probably be forced to reshuffle the government.
On Aug. 24, Grybauskaite again urged Valinskas to resign. On the same day, Valinskas again said that the voting in the parliamentary session, which starts on Sept. 10, will decide his future.