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Sunday 19.01.2020 | Name days: Alnis, Andulis

Ousted Lithuanian president Rolandas Paksas inches closer to Seimas

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Lithuania’s former President Rolandas Paksas

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

Hardly any other Lithuanian politician is so much loathed as the country’s former president Rolandas Paksas. Ousted for perjury and obstruction of justice in 2004, he was slapped with a life-time ban to run for a constitutional oath-requiring office in Lithuania, yet he retained eligibility for the European Parliament elections.

Lithuanian legislature takes on Paksas issue fifth time

Having seen leniency from Strasbourg’s European Court of Human Rights in 2011, which ruled that such severe punishment is not in line with EU human rights, his multiple attempts to clear the domestic election ban have been futile, but he faces a lot better chances to do it now after 93 Lithuanian MPs voted this week in favor of a constitutional amendment opening the way for the impeached president to run in general elections.

In order to have the Constitutional amendment passed, Paksas requires a two-thirds majority, or 94 votes, in the second vote that has to take pace in the Seimas no later than three months from the first voting.

Of 100 parliamentarians, only two voted against the so-called Paksas amendment, five abstained and 93 voted in favour of the amendment. There are 141 parliamentarians in Lithuanian legislature, Seimas.

«The constitutional amendment is aimed at implementing the European Court of Human Rights’ 2011 judgement in the Paksas versus Lithuania case,» Viktoras Pranckietis, the speaker of the Seimas, was clear introducing the legislation before the parliament.

A shift in Conservatives’ position

Lithuanian legislature’s vote on Paksas this week was fifth over the course of the last eight years. In a major shift that can turn out to be crucial, Seimas’ MPs from the Homeland Union and Lithuanian Christian fraction, known colloquially as Conservatives, have largely voted for the Paksas amendment.

This is how the 74th provision of the Constitution has become known owing to Paksas’ former party Order and Justice multiple attempts to pave way for its leader to national elections.

If enacted, it would allow successfully impeached politicians participate in Seimas elections again after 10 years since their removal, yet it will still bar them, and Paksas, too, from participating in presidential elections.

With the nod to the Constitutional amendment from the Conservatives, analysts predict that Paksas’ bid seems promising now – Paksas will need to garner 94 votes in the second vote on the parliamentary floor.

 «We (Conservatives) support the amendments of the 74th provision of the Constitution, which, if implemented, would allow such politicians to participate in general elections, but we are against paving way that way for them to presidential elections,» Gabrielius Landsbergis, the Conservatives leader, emphasised.

He however criticised Paksas’ former fellow party members (Paksas is founder of the Order and Justice Party (TT), but stepped down as its chairman a couple of years ago – L. J.) for destruction in previous similar votes.

«As a rule, before, with such constitutional amendments submitted, they would swiftly add proposals to allow impeached legislators to participate in presidential elections, too.  Should they do it again, the TT fraction would lose support not only for the part regarding participation in general elections, but for the whole legislative project,» Landsbergis accentuated. «Frankly, I do not rule out that such a provocation has been intended again,» he added.

Analyst: Paksas remains Lithuania’s most hated politician

«With the Conservatives’ support, the likelihood of having the amendment adopted is higher than ever before. But I do not think that Paksas will be very happy to finally be able to run for a Seimas seat, but be still cordoned off from a presidential race. The whole story about Paksas seems weird to me – because of his past, the ideology he promulgates and other things he is now a misfit even among the ranks of his former party. He is definitely Lithuania’s most hated politician. And furthermore: he is man of the past with very slim chances in Lithuanian politics,» Vytautas Dumbliauskas, associate professor of Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius, told bluntly the Baltic News Network, BNN.

Not a heavyweight, but can still stir some ripples

Tomas Janeliūnas, professor of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University, is not very «convinced» yet that Paksas will garner necessary support for his cause in the second vote on the Constitutional change, but agreed that Lithuania «must» solve the Paksas issue «once and for all.»

«All the politically parties, including the Conservatives, understand well that delaying the question indefinitely does not any good to Lithuania internationally. Paksas is just not a kind of person, a politician who could threaten the establishment,» Janeliūnas told BNN.

Concurring with analyst Dumbliauskas, he also called Paksas «a man of the past», but hastened to add that Paksas is still capable of «stirring some ripples» if he seeks a Seimas seat on a nationalist party platform.

«But the problem here for him is that, in a year from now, there will be many such nationalist sentiment-driven new political formations seeking Seimas seats. Those existing now do not seem to be speaking in unity and the rise of new ones will just pour gas one the fire. I really doubt if Paksas could act as their single leader. It is just not possible,» the analyst underscored.

Approached by BNN, Paksas sounded defiant and refused to speak about his political future.

 «I am too an experienced politician to say anything about it. I just can reiterate that I am regretting as I have been regretting for the last eight years that the Strasbourg court decision has not been respected until now,» he said.

Speaking to Lithuanian media, he lamented this week that the Seimas is not bound to «fully» restore his constitutional rights.

«Unless I am allowed to participate in all elections, including presidential elections, the Lithuanian Constitution will continue crying with big tears,» he was quoted as saying.

Lithuania chastised over Paksas

The Strasbourg-based court ruled back in 2011 that the lifetime ban a person removed from office through impeachment to stand as a candidate in elections was disproportionate and ran counter to the European Convention on Human Rights.

With Lithuania failing to make constitutional changes to pave the way for Paksas to stand for election, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, which supervises the execution of the ECHR’s judgments, has applied the so-called enhanced supervision procedure to Lithuania.

Paksas was ousted through impeachment in April, 2004 after the Lithuanian Constitutional Court ruled that he had grossly violated the Constitution and his oath of office by granting Lithuanian citizenship to Yuri Borisov, the main financial supporter of his presidential election campaign.

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