Lithuania's political logjam eases as president nominates PM

By bne IntelliNews November 20, 2012

bne -

The threat of constitutional chaos in Lithuania appeared close to an end on November 19 as President Dalia Grybauskaite said she is ready to nominate Algirdas Butkevicius as prime minister.

Ending three weeks or so of political stalemate following the second round of parliamentary elections in October, the president appears to have conceded defeat in her bid to block the inclusion of the Labour Party in a coalition led by Butkevicius' Social Democrats.

Admitting that it is clear that Social Democrats is the only party able to form a majority coalition in parliament, Grybauskaite said she will formally nominate Butkevicius at a parliament sitting on November 20, reports Reuters. However, she reiterated her dissatisfaction that he has chosen a coalition partner who is "sitting on the bench of the accused".

Butkevicius told reporters the president had demanded that no ministers should be members of the Labour Party. He had earlier offered to block the appointment of certain members of the party from the cabinet in a bid to find a compromise with Grybauskaite as the situation risked rolling into territory outside the constitution. Analysts said earlier in November they could not predict what may happen should the president push to re-run the election.

The day after the second round of voting on October 28, the president issued an unexpected bid to block the plan to include Labour in the coalition. She complained that the party is unfit to govern due to the prosecution of two party members for electoral fraud, as well as tax fraud charges from 2006 that are still hanging over leader Viktor Uspaskich.

Clearly pushing the Social Democrats to form a government with the outgoing right-wing Homeland Union instead, Grybauskaite then called for the constitutional court to investigate new claims of vote rigging. When the court gave the vast majority of the vote the green light last week, the president appeared to have little choice but to back down.

The fuss now puts the president's own future in question. The Social Democrat coalition with Labour, the Order and Justice Party and a party representing the Polish minority will occupy 86 of the 141 seats in parliament. That gives it a constitutional majority, which is theoretically capable of impeaching the president for unconstitutional acts. Her blockage of the coalition could clearly be interpreted as such, suggest some analysts.

The move opens the way for a new government which says it will ease the previous administration's tough austerity, although Butkevicius has pledged to keep to the 2013 fiscal targets and suggested that - despite a 12-month delay - he intends to stay on course towards joining the Eurozone in 2015. However, he has also insisted that he will halt the plan to build a nuclear power station to serve the Baltic region, infuriating those that view Visaginus as vital to reducing the country's dependence on Russian energy.

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