The noose is tightening around Rolandas Paksas' neck. Sadly, however, the tighter it gets, the more bizarre - even ludicrous - the president's behavior becomes.
Instead of cutting the rope and relieving himself and the Lithuanian people of their collective misery, he squirms and lashes out and generally makes the entire situation worse.
Last week the impeachment panel, consisting of six MPs and six lawyers, found Paksas guilty on all six counts of violating the constitution and his oath of office. He is accused of undermining national security, leaking state secrets, exercising undue influence on private (commercial) affairs, discrediting public institutions and connivance in regards to abuse of powers by his advisors.
The panel's report, released late Feb. 18 and consisting of some 150 pages, was followed the next day by a vote in Parliament to initiate the actual impeachment proceedings. Although turnout for the vote was surprisingly low - only 62 MPs voted to start the impeachment - it would appear that mustering another 23 votes among the some 60 MPs who failed to participate on Feb. 19, and thus gather the 85 necessary to oust the president - shouldn't be difficult.
The next decision lies with the Constitutional Court, which is encumbered with the task of sifting through some 6,925 pages of legalese (30 copies were sent to the court for a total of 20,700 pages in a highly guarded mini-van). Observers say it should take about three weeks. The noose tightens.
Meanwhile, the air of desperation amidst the president and his circle is increasingly evident. On Feb. 18 Paksas asked the heads of the State Security Department and the ministries of Defense and Interior for information about possible riots and social unrest that might arise as a result of the "current political processes." On Feb. 23 presidential advisor Gintaras Surkas told national radio that a "coup" was taking place in the country and that "the next step will be the assassination of President Rolandas Paksas." Then, on Feb. 24 the president himself demanded that impeachment proceedings be launched against the speaker of Parliament, Arturas Paulauskas. What's more, he said Lithuania needed to be "cleaned up" of all the "black deeds" that had infested the country over the past 13 years.
Worse of all was another statement. Showing his true fighting spirit, he promised to run again for the presidency if impeached. "If for one or another reason the current Seimas decided to lift their hands against the president, I would be ready to run for elections again, making every effort to defend the rights of Lithuania's people, as well as of the president's institution," he said.
It sounds as if someone needs to give Paksas a reality check before, like a stubborn ox, he drags the country down with him.