Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 77

In a special address televised on Lithuania’s four national channels late on April 19, President Valdas Adamkus announced that he “withholds confidence” from the government of Gediminas Vagnorius and proceeded to strongly criticize the prime minister’s performance. Adamkus charged that Vagnorius is engaged in a struggle against the presidential institution, restricts ministers’ contacts with the president, intrudes into presidential prerogatives and regularly offends the head of state. Describing Vagnorius as unable to cooperate constructively for the sake of national interests, Adamkus said that the prime minister’s conduct reminds him of the style of the Soviet nomenklatura. He then declared that Vagnorius has “overstepped the border of the permissible” and that his presence at the head of the government is “no longer acceptable.”

Adamkus called on the prime minister and the parliament to “consider the issue” of replacing the prime minister and reshuffling the government. The phrasing reflects the Adamkus’ weak leeway in this situation. Under the constitution, the president nominates and dismisses the prime minister, subject to parliamentary consent in either case. The parliament can also initiate the dismissal of a prime minister.

The main governing party, Fatherland Union/Conservatives, seems at this stage solidly behind Vagnorius. Parliament Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, who is concurrently chairman of the ruling party, has sought to mediate between the president and the prime minister. His efforts having failed, he seems to support Vagnorius. The Christian-Democrats, junior partner in the coalition government, have–after some hesitation–declined overtures from the presidential office, and now seem loyal to their coalition pact with the Conservatives. The two parties hold a comfortable majority of parliamentary seats, apparently precluding the success of any motion of no-confidence in the prime minister at this stage. Only the small left-of-center parties would support an Adamkus move to dismiss Vagnorius. Such support would be not only insufficient but also embarrassing to the president, who was elected in January 1998–thanks only to the Conservatives’ and the Christian Democrats’ support–in a tight run-off against the left-of-center candidate (Lithuanian TV, April 19; BNS, April 20).