Central Electoral Commission – the end of the Vaigauskas era

Zenonas Vaigauskas
DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

Yet another term in the office of Central Electoral Commission (VRK) chairman is concluding for Zenonas Vaigauskas. The government majority tells LRT.lt they wish to see a new leader of the VRK, but Vaigauskas himself hints at intrigue.

Zenonas Vaigauskas has been at the head of the VRK for 22 years. The long term leader has hinted at retirement a number of times, but he continues to remain at the head of the VRK.
The Seimas has to appoint a new VRK commission earliest by mid-March and mid-May at the latest. Z. Vaigauskas told LRT.lt that he hopes he will not be present in the commission.

“I already regretted agreeing in 2012. No-one is proposing [to continue heading the VRK], I hope that they really won’t. If they do? Ask those who do. It would be an honour if they did offer of course. But honestly I believe it is time for a new and young person. Someone with experience. This requires a great deal of fortitude,” Z. Vaigauskas said.

To LRT.lt’s question whether he would be willing to continue leading the VRK if he was presented with an offer, Z. Vaigauskas responded that “No-one is offering it to me. Let it remain an intrigue. If someone does get the idea, let them check. I will give a fairly clear answer.”

The incumbent head of the VRK was also unwilling to comment on potential candidates. “I am completely uninclined to comment on this. My experience is such that if you comment it ends up with someone liking or disliking it. It is not me who choose a successor,” Vaigauskas said.
In his words, the work of the VRK has to be evaluated by the voters themselves.

“Look at the elections yourselves. Whether the voters satisfied, rather than giving one another plusses. Do we believe the election results or do we not? Do we think that someone cheated us during the elections, that they were unfair? Or perhaps the elections were the sort we deserved? Perhaps the wrong ones were elected, perhaps a mistake was made… It depends on which side we look from – that voters chose the government they wanted or are we looking at the harmed party?” the senior official listed a number of questions.

J. Sabatauskas – you do not change horses halfway

Lithuanian Social Democrat Party (LSDP) Chairman Algirdas Butkevičius told LRT.lt that it is time to seek a new candidate. “Last time when his candidacy was presented and approved there were talks that it is his last term. I believe we have to honour those words. It is time for a certain renewal,” Butkevičius said, albeit admitting he has no information on who could replace Z. Vaigauskas.
Seimas Committee of Legal Affairs Chairman Julius Sabatauskas of the LSDP notes that it would likely be best to change the VRK chairman after the repeat Seimas election in the Anykščiai-Panevėžys district and the mayoral elections in Jonava and Šakiai on April 23.

“The term is ending, but it would be good that the VRK would conclude these tasks. I believe you realise that you should not change horses halfway. They are now beginning the processes of organising elections, if we change the VRK, various issues may crop up,” Sabatauskas told LRT.lt.
According to the Seimas Committee of Legal Affairs chairman the composition of the VRK is regulated by law, but he has heard talks among the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (LVŽS) that they are considering changes to this. “The essence of the changes would be that there would no longer be any partisan representatives, they are talking about professionalism as a criterion,” J. Sabatauskas added.

Sabatauskas also said that he does not believe Z. Vaigauskas would want to work as the VRK chairman. “Together with the commission there will be a need for a new chairman. He does not have to be completely new, without experience on the job. There will be a large struggle regarding the VRK, whether there will be party representatives or not,” he commented.

The VRK chairman is appointed based on the proposal of the Seimas Speaker. Seimas Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis’ media representative Dalia Vencevičienė told LRT.lt that for now there have been no talks of candidacies for the post of VRK chairman.

Karbauskis – change in the VRK has to happen

First deputy Seimas Speaker Rima Baškienė of the LVŽS says that if there is talk of rotations for school heads, such practice should happen in other institutions as well.

“Experience is important, however we must not worsen things in choosing a new chairman. Rotation is necessary everywhere. When meetings on this begin, positions will appear. There is not much time left, so a decision has to be made,” R. Baškienė said.

Meanwhile LVŽS leader Ramūnas Karbauskis also says he hopes for the VRK to get a new chairman.

“Changes are needed there. We are doing many things manually in Lithuania. We have to invest into measures that would yield data at five past nine pm, as is in many countries with computerised systems. We are now constantly hearing who and how calculates, what pencils they have in hand. This is not necessary in the 21st century. If need be we can borrow money, compared to what harm can be done to both public confidence and the state itself if we are unable to obtain data 6-8 hours on and doubt its accuracy,” R. Karbauskis said.

R. Karbauskis was surprised by the price of the repeat elections organised in spring.
“I was presented data from some districts in 2012. The election costs rose by eight times! I cannot logically understand this. I am trying to figure out why the price rise. Something is off with our electoral organisation.

We are now even trying to come to terms about reimbursement payment regulation in court because based on common sense one reimbursement calculation has to be done in the run-up to the elections and another afterward. This can be done by any accountant in 25 minutes. Now it is done so that a party which obtained no votes during the election is still financed for half a year, while the party which obtained massive support is given financing for half a year based on previous election results. This is a political decision from the VRK, it would be good if it was depoliticised and no-one would have any doubt that the decision was not motivated by some party which is no longer even present in Seimas,” R. Karbauskis complained.

He repeated that the VRK needs “I believe Z. Vaigauskas understands this. Because I do not believe that it would be an attempt to obtain another term, it would be rather odd.”

I. Makaraitytė – Z. Vaigauskas is a convenient individual

Political analyst Indrė Makaraitytė believes that political parties lacked the political will to replace Z. Vaigauskas.

“He said himself that he would like to withdraw. But that is the nuance, he claims so, but then remains. I simply believe that there is a lack of political will to replace him. He is a convenient individual. He does something there, but there is no political will to change things. He has always been suitable for all parties. Now there are explanations that supposedly the Liberals had other candidates at a certain point, but supposedly the Conservatives did not consent, but this is once again just evasion,” I. Makaraitytė told LRT.lt.

According to the analyst everyone has already forgotten the disruptions during the election, thus it is still unclear whether a big conflict will arise regarding the need to replace Z. Vaigauskas. “So far an investigation on how the IT systems were procured has not been done, it has all been overshadowed by other scandals. Everything went silent, no-one is interested anymore. There are many such institutions that are silently prospering, living to the next election silently. This is a matter of political will. He is a very “righteous” person, everyone’s friend and there are many such nomenclature figures in Lithuania,” I. Makaraitytė told LRT.lt.

LRT.lt reminds that the VRK procured an electronic system for the elections at a cost of 5 million euro, but it failed to live up to standards. Due to this the public only found out results far later into Sunday night than usual.

The system did not only fail to operate smoothly, but it was also insecure. Initially voter personal data leaks occurred, with later news surfacing that the “Voter page” could be easily accessed by anyone with even limited IT knowledge.

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