Paksas comments on future elections, date unclear

  • 2004-02-19
  • Baltic News Service
VILNIUS - President Rolandas Paksas has said that he would entertain a proposal from MPs to announce parliamentary elections for this upcoming September.

At a press conference on Feb. 17, the president said he was discussing a date for the future elections with parliamentary factions.
"Most of the parliamentarians whom I have talked to spoke in support of a later date - September or mid-September," Paksas said.
The president said he was considering suggestions of members of the Seimas (Lithuania's parliament) in light of the annual work schedule.
"I think that August, a time for vacation, when most people and politicians are on holiday, would not be a proper time for the new parliamentary elections," Paksas said.
Under the current scheme, these elections may be held between Aug. 19 and Sept. 19.
The president must decide by April 19.
Asked when he was going to read the annual report, the president said he would do this immediately after the impeachment -implying that the impeachment proceedings against him would fail.
A group of MPs is presently arranging amendments to the constitution that would set a specific date for general parliamentary elections rather than leave the decision to the president.
"I think it would be the most appropriate to establish that parliamentary elections take place on the third Sunday of October, when all agricultural work has been completed," Algimantas Salama-kinas, the author of the amendments, said last week.
Central Election Committee chief Zenonas Vaigauskas also said that he favored the proposal to set a specific date for the elections.
"I would favor it, as currently every election is held earlier and earlier and the tenure of Parliament shortens due to this. A fixed date for polls is set in many states of the world," Vaigauskas said
Due to some contradictions in the constitution, every Seimas election is held a few weeks earlier, and as a consequence in 2008 it should take place in midsummer. Should this happen, it could result in low voter turnout or even failure in single-mandate districts. (The law on parliamentary elections stipulates that the only condition for an election to be valid in single-mandate districts is a turnout of at least 40 percent of all eligible voters.)
"There is an evident contradiction in the constitution. One article says that the tenure of Seimas members lasts four years, while another says that new members hold the first session no later than within 15 days after results of the election are announced," Vaigauskas said.
When parliamentary elections were held under the two-round system, in Vaigauskas' words, it had been possible to harmonize the contradiction, and the parliaments elected in 1992 and 1996 held their first sessions on Nov. 25.
However, after the second round was given up, the current Seimas held its first meeting on Oct. 19, 2000, and if the current order was not changed the newly elected Seimas would have to hold the first sitting no later than Oct. 12. In such way, members of the present Seimas would not complete the whole four-year tenure stipulated in the constitution.
An ad-hoc parliamentary commission is currently considering accusations against the president. Paksas is accused of severely violating the constitution and his oath of office.
Last week, the president presented his explanations to the impeachment panel, rejecting all the accusations against him as groundless.