KAUNAS - As the impeachment proceedings against the Lithuanian president shift into high gear, the country's Parliament has appointed an ad-hoc committee to draft a motion to oust another disgraced politician, Vytautas Sustauskas, from office.
The working group made up of representatives of the ruling leftist majority along with the Conservative and Liberal-Centrist opposition is set to charge the parliamentarian with several counts of breaching the country's constitution and laws.
The initiative to impeach Sustauskas followed the Liberal Centrist faction's address to parliamentary speaker Arturas Paulauskas in mid-January, urging him to take action against the maverick lawmaker.
"Since day one in office Sustauskas has shown contempt for Parliament and human values, abusing his mandate with impunity. Therefore, we are deeply concerned how long this is going to last," Liberal-Centrist leader Eligijus Masiulis was quoted as saying.
The impeachment draft motion will have to get a seal of approval from the 141-member Parliament, with at least 36 signatures needed for the process to go ahead. This might prove rather easy, as the committee's chairperson, Arturas Melianas, has already suggested that Lithuania's highest legislative institution "should get rid of clowns," an opinion reflecting the dominant frame of mind in Parliament regarding Sustauskas.
Melianas didn't specify when the draft motion would be ready. "It's hard to tell when exactly the committee will finish the job, but we are determined to work with maximum efficiency, so this should happen pretty soon," he said.
Sustauskas ran into trouble when the parliamentary ethics commission received phone call transcripts from the State Security Department disclosing his links to organized crime.
There is evidence that the rowdy legislator had dealings with Kaunas' mafia boss Henrikas Daktaras, including unlawful interference into the investigation of the criminal case involving his son - Kaunas City Council seat holder Enrikas Daktaras - who is awaiting trial on charges of drug smuggling and counterfeiting U.S. currency.
Sustauskas is believed to have leaked classified information on the case, taking advantage of his MP's mandate.
An array of documents detailing other allegations of the embattled politician's misconduct will be used to ensure a successful impeachment.
Prone to drinking and to participating in radical antics, Sustauskas often came under fire in the ethics commission. He triggered one of the latest rows just before Christmas when he reputedly ordered a staff worker to deliver Elite toilet paper to parliamentary mailboxes of those traditional party members who backed the move to instigate legal proceedings against President Rolandas Paksas.
The staff worker filed a report complaining that she was subjected to "psychological violence" by Sustauskas, who in turn denied any involvement and simultaneously accused the woman of sexual harassment.
Formerly the flamboyant mayor of Kaunas, Sustauskas over the past few years has raised massive storms of protest with his extreme anti-Semitic rhetoric and virulent claims on TV that "there will be order in Lithuanian Parliament only when machine guns rattle," referring to the 1999 shootings in the Armenian Parliament.
Regardless of the misdemeanors of their political bedfellow, the marginal Peasant and New Democracy party factions oppose the bid to sack Sustauskas. They have instead called on him to repent and reform.
Nor is there any enthusiasm among the fairly scanty ranks of the propresidential liberal democrats to see the infamous troublemaker's neck on the chopping block. They issued a statement saying their opponents "have run out of steam and are now trying to cover up failed attempts to overthrow the president with another scandal."
Coincidentally or not, Sus-tauskas, who clambered to power thanks to a populist rant that won the hearts and minds of grass-roots voters disillusioned with slow economic recovery, is one of Paksas' most devoted advocates.
Known as a keen activist at pro-Paksas rallies staged across the country, last autumn he also proposed holding a referendum on expanding the president's powers.
Despite an avalanche of accusations, Sustauskas insists on his innocence, arguing that there are no grounds to ax him from the post.
"In any event, my mission in Parliament is over. I came here to see why the Lithuanian budget is empty and fight corruption," he told The Baltic Times.
"Tracking down smugglers is my hobby," the politician smugly added, even though he never sat on the anticorruption commission.