Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 97

The Lithuanian parliament yesterday approved President Valdas Adamkus’ nomination of Rolandas Paksas as prime ministerial candidate by an overwhelming margin. Yesterday was the constitutionally mandated deadline for Adamkus to present the nomination. Parliament Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis played a decisive role in securing approval of the candidate by Fatherland Union/Lithuanian Conservatives (FU/LC), the main governing party. Paksas, a member of FU/LC Board, has committed himself to implementing the program of the outgoing government.

Approximately fifteen FU/LC deputies refrained from voting. They are supporters of the outgoing Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius–who had to resign last month after having provoked a personal confrontation with Adamkus (see the Monitor, April 21-22, May 3-5)–and have since his departure from office embarked on a barely disguised policy of noncooperation with the president. Landsbergis’ victory in the intra-party dispute has averted an official split at least for now but the prospect of one haunts the upcoming party conference.

The Christian-Democratic Party, junior partner in the government, has fully endorsed Paksas, as has the pro-presidential Center Union, which seems slated to return to the government after Vagnorius’ departure. The small left-of-center opposition displays, initially at least, a benevolent attitude toward Paksas personally–he enjoys a high popularity rating–but a critical one toward the program to which he is committed.

The 43-year-old Paksas is the incumbent mayor of Vilnius. A trained construction engineer, Paksas was the chief manager and co-owner of a private construction firm prior to his election as mayor in 1997. He is a multiple former champion both of the Soviet Union and of independent Lithuania in acrobatic airplane flying, and headed the Vilnius Aeroclub. Paksas has won high marks for his record as mayor, including revitalization of the Old Town of Vilnius. During the talks with parliamentary parties, Paksas stressed his support for American capital investment in Lithuania, despite the left-of-center opposition’s objections to the proposed takeover of the country’s oil sector by the U.S. company Williams International. Paksas has fifteen days to present to the parliament, for its approval, his list of prospective cabinet members and a programmatic statement for his government (BNS, Radio Vilnius, May 17-18).