VILNIUS - The special commission investigating the six counts of impeachment against President Rolandas Paksas plans to complete its questioning of witnesses by Jan. 23 and will most likely augment the charges, MP Julius Sabatauskas, vice chairman of the commission, said.The panel, which is conducting its interrogations (21 as of Jan. 20) behind closed doors, must present its findings to Parliament by Feb. 13. It has so far been largely praised by parliamentarians.
"There's nothing bad that can be said about it. I think it was a positive decision to have it work in secret, especially after we witnessed the spectacle of the special commission that made the preliminary investigation," said Algirdas Matulevicius, a member of Paksas' Liberal Democratic Party.
As far as an actual vote on the six counts, Parliamentary Vice Chairman Ceslovas Jursenas speculated that it would take place in late March or early April.
"I think it's more likely that it will happen in early April," said MP Andrius Kubilius, leader of the opposition Homeland Union.
Hopes for an earlier resolution to the country's political crisis appear slim, as few insiders believe that either side will back down before the spring.
"If [Paksas] sees that there are enough votes for impeachment, it is possible that he will resign. But I think it's obvious that he will wait until absolutely the last moment to do anything like this," Kubilius said.
For his part the president showed an increasing willingness to talk to the media, even though the venues he used - TV4, one of the country's smaller media outlets, and Kauno Diena, a newspaper from the country's second largest city - do not have a wide audience.
Paksas also exacerbated his already precarious position with the national media by lashing out at the press for its "negative" and "tendentious" coverage.
The president even went so far as to say on Jan. 12 that the media is a "greater threat to national security" than Yuri Borisov, the president's largest campaign sponsor who many believed usurped his close relationship with the president to garner Lithuanian citizenship and other favors.
Borisov was stripped of his citizenship by decision of the Constitutional Court on Dec. 30.
Specifically, the media's use of the word "isolated" to describe Lithuania's political situation lends itself to comparisons with pariah states such as North Korea and Libya (see story on Page 5), said Paksas, a statement that his supporters confirmed.
"Let's look at the origin of this idea that the president is isolating the country," said Matulevicius. "It began when the president cancelled his [December] visit to Washington, and it came from what I would call the Chicago mafia of Lithuania-Americans, who are mostly Adamkus supporters."
Asked if he would give testimony to the impeachment panel, Paksas said he would decide that after his lawyers had studied all the material made available to the panel, which consists of six parliamentarians and six lawyers.
"The meeting might take place, but I would want it to be constructive and useful to both sides. This will require that I have all materials gathered by the commission," Paksas told Kauno Diena in an interview published Jan. 17.
"If I had no belief in a successful outcome, it would be difficult for me to work. If truth and justice are not just political declarations but concepts acceptable to all Lithuanians, the impeachment will fall through," Paksas said.