Lithuanian MPs fail to adopt resolution on Belarus

  • 2001-10-04
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - Lithuania's Parliament in a vote on Sept. 25 failed to decide on whether it should condemn the undemocratic regime in its eastern neighbor, Belarus, or whether its attitude should be one of friendliness, following the September presidential election which was criticized by Western observers after President Alexander Lukashenka claimed an overwhelming majority of votes.

On the night of Sept. 25, after 90 minutes of heated debate on Lithuania's attitude to the election results, Lithuanian MPs rejected both a resolution criticizing the election and another one praising it.

A resolution proposed by Conservative MP Rasa Jukneviciene suggested supporting the position of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe which concluded that the Belarusian presidential election was undemocratic.

Jukneviciene urged her colleagues to reject reports by official Belarusian press agencies that some Lithuanian representatives recognized the campaign and the election itself as democratic, free and fair.

Eccentric independent MP Julius Veselka said that good neighborly relations, respect and tolerance toward Belarus would assist in the creation of a civic society there.

Jukneviciene's proposition was rejected by 30 votes to 35, with three abstentions.

Veselka's resolution received even weaker support, with only four MPs voting in favor while 47 voted against and 20 abstained.

The debates saw mud slinging between Liberal MP Romanas Sedlickas and Veselka. Sedlickas together with two Lithuanian Social Liberal MPs participated in an OSCE mission observing the Belarusian election, after which they described it as undemocratic.

Veselka observed the Belarusian election at the invitation of the Belarusian government.

Sedlickas accused Veselka of acting as a propagandist for Lukashenka. "I've seen Veselka glorifying Lukashenka and kissing him on Belarusian TV. Mr. Veselka doesn't know what a dictatorship is," Sedlickas said.

Veselka responded with jibes against Sedlickas' years as an émigré in the United States. "I don't know what kind of sexual orientation Mr. Sedlickas has if he accuses me of kissing Lukashenka. I didn't even have a meeting with Lukashenka."

He went on to attack the United States and accused Voice of America of encouraging postwar Lithuanian partisans and the death of his father, an anti-Soviet resistance fighter.

Veselka is known for his eccentric image. On one of Baltijos TV programs, Veselka, apparently drunk, stated he was a KGB agent and emissary of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The interview was made in the yard of Veselka's farmhouse. While clapping his hands, Veselka asked his turkey to confirm his words. The turkey produced guttural sounds after each clap.

"I'll become president of Lithuania with the help of Lukashenka," Veselka said, concluding his spat with Sedlickas and others.

Most MPs in the 141-seat Parliament ignored both resolutions and did not participate or vote. Gediminas Kirkilas, one of the leaders of the ruling Social Democrats and head of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said such debates and resolutions made no sense, pointing out that the Lithuanian government and Lithuanian Foreign Ministry had already expressed their view on the Belarusian election, one which was identical to that of other Western countries.

"Do we need further debates?" he asked "Maybe we need to evaluate Poland and EstoÓia's recent elections as well?"

On Sept. 27 Violeta Gaizauskaite, spokeswoman of President Valdas Adamkus, said Adamkus would like to see a clearer position on the part of some Social Democrat MPs toward the situation in Belarus.

Veselka was not the only MP who observed the Belarusian election in a capacity other than that of OSCE delegation member, she pointed out. Three others leftist MPs observed the election outside the auspices of the OSCE and spoke positively about it.

"There were two MPs from Lithuania's tiny Russian Union who went to Belarus at the invitation of the Belarusian government," Kirkilas told The Baltic Times. "They're in coalition with us. But they're not our party's members and we can't take measures against them. Our party MP, Mykolas Pronckus, went to observe the election on invitation from the Belarusian Social Democrat Party, which is in opposition to Lukashenka. Pronckus' positive impressions are funny and don't represent our party's position. Pronckus is an elderly man, a specialist in agriculture. His understanding of foreign affairs is equal to my understanding of agriculture."

On Oct. 1 Kirkilas devoted his press conference to explaining his party's position. "We believe the elections were not democratic in the European sense, the rights of the opposition candidates were insufficiently respected as was their ability to use the press, especially radio and television," Kirkilas said.

He added Lithuania's Social Democrats adhere to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's current attitude that Belarus should not be isolated.

"Isolation is usually beneficial to dictators. It would only be beneficial to Lukashenka," Kirkilas said. "We'll continue to maintain a dialogue with our neighbors, the Belarusians, at the governmental level, to expand economic, cultural and other kinds of cooperation. We also maintain that it is necessary to invite them to international organizations together with opposition figures."

He rejected charges that the Social Democrats seek to support the anti-democratic regime of Belarusian President Lukashenka through maintenance of that dialogue.

"I believe we'll continue the policy of critical dialogue," he said. "We and our party will never concur with accusations that we support any kind of autocracy or politicians who seek to maintain power by any means."

Kirkilas claimed there were positive aspects to the elections in Belarus, namely that opposition figures were allowed to compete. He said the Belarusian opposition forces had "a real possibility" to win in the next election, provided they worked hard. Kirkilas reported his party would maintain contact with the opposition Belarusian Social Democratic Party.