Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 187

Lithuanian president Algirdas Brazauskas has highlighted three factors to explain his decision not to seek reelection. (See Monitor, October 7) First, he named differences over economic and social policy with the parliamentary majority, which has consistently overridden presidential vetoes and declined to debate some presidential legislative initiatives. Second, Brazauskas referred to his background as leader of the former Lithuanian Communist Party: "almost all foreign media refer to this… Bearing in mind the country’s image, this is a very substantial shortcoming in my curriculum vitae." Brazauskas added that all Central European states, along with the other Baltic countries, have elected presidents not burdened by "this type of biography." Thirdly, the 65-year-old Brazauskas said that the country needs a president younger than himself. (Vilnius television, October 6)

Leaders of the governing Fatherland Union/Conservatives, including parliament chairman and presidential candidates Vytautas Landsbergis, complimented Brazauskas for leaving politics "with his head held high." Landsbergis visited Brazauskas yesterday and said that they agreed on the importance of a clean electoral campaign for Lithuania’s international reputation. The comment clearly referred to some leftist groups that recently launched a smear campaign against Landsbergis in the hope of boosting Brazauskas’s chances, evidently without the latter’s approval. (BNS, October 7; see also Monitor, October 7)

Brazauskas became the first secretary of the Lithuanian Communist Party during the perestroika period. Under his leadership, the party seceded from the CPSU — the first party to take that course in a former union republic. Brazauskas and his wing of the party supported the parliament, chaired then as now by Landsbergis, in proclaiming the restoration of Lithuania’s independence and in resisting Moscow’s military crackdown. Brazauskas served as first deputy prime minister in the first independent government, and in 1992 won the country’s first presidential election over Landsbergis. His five-year term expires in February 1998, two months after the election scheduled for December 21, 1997.

As president, Brazauskas formally left his Democratic Labor Party — the successor to the reformist and pro-independence wing of the Communist Party — in compliance with the constitution. He maintained informal close relations with the DLP and the government formed by that party until 1996, when party and government collapsed amid corruption scandals. He then demanded the government’s resignation and distanced himself from the DLP. The ensuing elections brought the FU to power.

Brazauskas has unambiguously promoted Lithuania’s accession to the European Union and NATO as well as close relations with the U.S. and with neighboring Poland. Differences between the president and the governing FU pertain mainly to economic and social issues. The president has recently sought, unsuccessfully, to install his nominee as head of national television against the parliament’s nominee.

Kremlin to Continue Working with Lukashenka.