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Paksas says he will not run for president

  • 2001-04-12
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - After the creation of Lithuania's centerist government last fall, many observers predicted it would collapse by Easter. They speculated that the explosives that would destroy the government would be the presidential ambitions of both its leaders, Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas, the leader of the Liberal Union, and Arturas Paulauskas, parliamentary chairman and leader of the Social Liberals.

But on April 6 Paksas announced that he would not be a candidate for the presidency and that he wanted the ruling coalition to stay in power.

"I am the prime minister and I need to continue reforms without upsetting the stability of the government. Important decisions will be made this year in NATO and the European Union about our membership in these organizations and we need to preserve stability in the country," Paksas said explaining his decision.

The presidential election is scheduled for the end of 2002.

He said that he is happy with the current status quo in the government. Last week, Paulauskas suggested that one or two opposition members might be brought into the government, following the resignation of several Cabinet ministers this year.

"I don't see a crisis, and there is no need to create a 'big coalition,'" Paksas said, echoing a phrase used by Paulauskas.

The refusal of Paksas to be a candidate for president came after statements last week by Gediminas Jakavonis, the leader of the center-left Social Liberals' parliamentary faction, that his party is "a kind of bridge" between the center-right Liberals and the left-wing opposition Social Democratic Party, which has a sizable minority in Parliament.

The Social Liberals were well placed to cooperate easily with both the right and left of the political spectrum, he said.

Algirdas Brazauskas, the leader of the Social Democrats, has said publicly on many occasions that he would be more satisfied with the post of prime minister than the presidential chair.

Observers say that Paulauskas could avoid competition with the ever-popular Brazauskas in the presidential election by breaking the coalition with the Liberals, creating an alliance with the Social Democrats and giving the post of prime minister to the leftist leader.

Paksas said that his refusal to be a candidate is valid only if he remains prime minister and the current coalition stays in power.

"I said that Prime Minister Paksas will not be a candidate for the presidency. But the private Paksas might be a candidate," he said.

In this way, he was urging Paulauskas to remain faithful to the ruling coalition.