Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 86

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus yesterday appointed Irena Degutiene as acting prime minister to replace Gediminas Vagnorius, who resigned from the post on April 30. His resignation brought down the government: By law, when the prime minister resigns, the entire cabinet of ministers are automatically “resigned” with him. Vagnorius had initiated, escalated and ultimately suffered defeat in a personal conflict with President Valdas Adamkus (see the Monitor, Monitor, April 21, 22, May 3). Degutiene, a 49-year-old medical doctor, is the social protection and labor minister in the outgoing government, which will serve in a caretaker capacity pending the formation of a new one. Degutiene is affiliated with Fatherland Union/Lithuanian Conservatives (FU/LC), the dominant party in the outgoing government and in parliament. Under the constitution, Adamkus has fifteen days to submit the nomination of a new prime minister to the parliament. In a conciliatory gesture to FU/LC, Adamkus yesterday forwarded a short list of FU/LC prime ministerial candidates to that party’s leadership for its preliminary approval.

Meanwhile, a rift seems to be opening up within that party. One group, which seems prevalent in the party leadership, urges a full withdrawal of FU/LC from the government, challenging Adamkus to form the cabinet on his own authority; FU/LC would then “cooperate with that cabinet on a businesslike basis” in parliament. That scenario would entail a minority government hostage to the parliamentary majority, continued friction with the president, and probably pre-term parliamentary elections. A smaller FU/LC group, headed by Parliament Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, urges cooperation with the president and responsible participation by FU/LC in the government, in accordance with the party’s program and electoral mandate. Landsbergis has reached agreement with Adamkus on these points in direct talks in recent days.

In Landsbergis’ absence on April 29, the party’s parliamentary caucus decided to adopt the former course of action. On May 1, Landsbergis was unable to prevent the approval of that decision by the party’s political council and its board. Vagnorius is chairman of that board and Landsbergis is chairman of the party. The Christian-Democrat Party, coalition partner of FU/LC in the outgoing government and in parliament, urges continuing participation by both parties in a new government, cooperation with the President and avoiding at all cost a “real political crisis.” (BNS, May 2-3).