And the winners are...
The past seven week, election time for the Seimas (parliament), was witness to some trend-breaking occurrences in Lithuanian politics. Not only was voter turnout much higher than expected (according to unofficial data, over 55 per cent voted), but the votes cast should make a real difference.
The Social Democratic coalition, led by former President Algirdas Brazauskas, won the most seats, taking 50 of 141 total seats. However, it was not enough to form a government, especially with President Valdas Adamkus leaning to other alternatives. It is most likely that the next Lithuanian Parliament will have the strongest opposition ever. The parties likely to form a government, the Liberal Union (35 seats), New Alliance (29), the Centre Union (three) and the Modern Christian Democrats (one), have a loose pre-electoral coalition deal. In total, the group holds 68 seats, and with the additional support of some minor parties—namely the Peasants Party (four) and Polish Electoral Action (two)—it should be sufficient for a functioning government.
The week was marked by political consultations, where it was decided that former Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas (Liberal Union) would keep his former job and Artūras Paulauskas (New Alliance) will take up the post of Seimas chairman. It is the first real attempt to build a true coalition government since the restoration of independence, and the coming days will be fascinating once the portfolios for ministers are distributed and the coalition agreement is revealed.
...and the losers are...
In the meantime, those less lucky are trying to assess what happened. The leader of the Centre Union, Romualdas Ozolas, resigned after the party failed to overcome the five per cent threshold (although it has three members elected through individual mandates). However, the most politically important loser was the current ruling Conservatives, which got only nine seats (eight from the party list, with just under eight per cent of the vote). The voters also noted their preferences, and Vytautas Landsbergis, the founder and leader of the party, was put into the second place on the party list, while Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius rose to the top position. The party did not indicate any change of political leadership.
More generally, a whole generation of the post-independence political elite is believed to have been voted out, with many Parliament members gone. The next government is probably going to be relatively young, with an average age of between 40 and 50 years. (For more on the elections, see this week's Amber Coast.)
Cases lost in Strasbourg
This week, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg announced its judgements in the three cases against Lithuania. In all three instances, the court ruled the Lithuanian state had violated human rights. In the most famous of the cases, that concerning Henrikas Daktaras, who is believed to be one of the chiefs in the Lithuanian underworld, the right to an impartial court was violated. He will not receive a financial compensation, whereas, in the two other cases, a financial renumeration was ordered.
Reactions from the Lithuanian judicial system remain to be seen. For one thing, in the Daktaras case, the Strasbourg court has ruled that the unlimited right for judges to appeal violates the principle of an impartial court. Lithuania has either to abolish this right or put a clear limit on its use.
That'll be USD 20 billion, please
An inter-departamental official commission appointed by the government has announced this week that USD 20 billion is the equivalent of damage Lithuania incurred under Soviet occupation. This comes as a combined figure, which covers deaths, citizens deported for hard labour in Siberia, prosecuted resistance figures, nationalisation of assets, damage to properties, lost GDP and many other issues.
The government, after receiving the figure, is expected to initiate negotiations with the Russian Federation, the successor of the USSR, about the compensation. This procedure is in accordance with the respective law passed in June. However, the prospects are unclear, after a strongly negative Russian reaction to the law.
Who's the taxman?
One of the most important posts in public finances, the director of the Taxation Department, is still vacant after it was announced this week that the competition for it will be announced anew. The two candidates who have applied so far—the acting director of the department and a well-known businessman—were deemed not suitable for the job.
And in other news
- The government has adopted the 2000-2001 programme to prepare Lithuania for NATO membership.
- Export and import figures continue to improve, with exports increasing by 28.7 per cent and imports by 12 per cent during the first eight months of this year.
- Lithuania was represented by one of the leading Lithuanian companies in the IT field, Sintagma, at the IT exhibition "Lotusphere Europe 2000."
- For the first time, a big rock concert has been performed in a Catholic church to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the birth of John Lennon. The monks in charge of the church in Kretinga prayed for the souls of erring, drug-addicted and alcoholic musicians.
- Lithuania's national football squad failed in the qualifying games for the World Cup, losing all three games, 1:6, 0:1 and 0:4, to Hungary, Romania and Georgia respectively. Although the coach was fired after the first disaster, the dismal results did not change.
As of 13 October 2000
|Currency||Lithuanian litas (LTL)
|1 US dollar||4.00|
|1 British pound||5.88|
|1 German mark||1.76|
Inga Pavlovaitė and Mel Huang, 13 October 2000
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