MPs place ban on candidate Paksas

  • 2004-05-06
  • By Milda Seputyte
VILNIUS - Parliament on May 4 passed amendments to the election law banning ex-President Rolandas from participating in the June ballot. Sixty-four MPs voted for and 17 against the amendments, which had been fast-tracked by acting President Arturas Paulauskas. Pursuant to the changes, no person who has been removed from office through impeachment may not run for the presidency for five years.

Paksas immediately attacked the amendment, saying it pointed to "organized crime" and "organized justice" in the country.
The constitution currently does not directly dictate any restrictions for a removed president. Nevertheless, constitutional law experts suggest that the participation of a removed president in the next elections contradicts the notion of a state bound by the constitutional rule of law.
In spite of parliamentarians' last-minute law making to prevent Paksas' participation in the elections, potential legal challenges to the new laws make his political fate far from certain.
Zenonas Vaigauskas, chairman of the Central Electoral Committee, expects the laws to be challenged in the country's highest court.
"The final decision will be that of the Constitutional Court. This shouldn't take long, and I hope everything will be clear by the period of election agitation, which is to start on May 11," he told The Baltic Times.
Even though the committee on legal affairs preliminarily declared the amendment to be constitutional, the Seimas was considering to send an inquiry to the Constitutional Court to determine whether it breaches the constitution as The Baltic Times went to press.
In the case of an inquiry, the amendment would be temporarily inactive until the judges interpret the constitution.
"The amendment is open to discussion. There is a 50-percent chance that the court will approve it. The constitution does not say anything directly; therefore, the lawyers will have to see what it means logically and systematically," said constitutional law expert Egidijus Sileikis, who teaches law at Vilnius University.
"The court knows the registration deadlines for the presidential election and will hurry in giving its ruling," asserted Sileikis.
At the same time, the Seimas approved an amendment that would forbid removed members of Parliament from participating in parliamentary or presidential elections for five years. This rule would also apply to impeached presidents, as the constitution stipulates that a candidate to the president's office should meet the same requirements as a candidate to the Seimas.
The amendment would come into force after a second vote in the Seimas to held in three months. Because of this delay, the revision of the constitution would not prevent Paksas from running in the presidential election, set for June 13.
Meanwhile, Paksas' legal woes deepened on another front, as prosecutors in Vilnius took a decisive step towards naming him in a criminal investigation related to the accusations leading to his impeachment.
Following an April 30 interrogation of Paksas, prosecutors announced that they officially suspected him of revealing national secrets.
The announcement came after months of haggling between Paksas and the prosecutors, who rejected his attempts to avoid testifying.
"This addresses the circumstances that Yuri Borisov was allegedly informed about operative investigation of State Security Department, or more precisely, about the tapping of phone conversations," prosecutor Algimantas Kliunka explained in a statement to the press.
Despite the grave nature of the allegations, the former president strongly denied all charges.
The completion of a pre-trial investigation is expected by May, at which time prosecutors will either halt the investigation or announce charges that would send Paksas to court.
The Central Electoral Committee explained that as long as the charges have not been proved in court, Paksas cannot be declared ineligible to participate in the presidential election.
While the impeached president was removed from office on April 6, he has already gathered the required amount of signatures to run in the early election.