In its draft decision, the electoral watchdog had proposed leaving the Liberals without a state grant for a year, however, members of the commission proposed mitigating the sanction to six months. The proposal was approved with votes of 12 members, no votes against and abstention from the Liberal member.
“The Liberal Movement has been punished enough by our announcement of the gross violation, and although the law allows us refusing them the grant for up to two years, I think grant refusal for six months rather than a year is a proportional punishment for the first violation of the law,” said the commission’s conservative member Vilius Semeška.
Eugenijus Gentvilas, acting leader of the Liberal Movement, said the party disagreed with the milder sanction. “We do not admit guilt,” said Gentvilas.
In his words, the VRK refusal to provide the Liberal Movement with the grant “executes justice without trial.” At the same time, the party’s acting leader said he could understand the commission’s tricky situation, as the grant decision should be made by Nov. 15, according to the law.
Suspicions in a case of political corruption were brought against the Liberal Movement in September.
Prosecutors also provided the election watchdog with materials on the party’s financing sources, which enabled VRK to conclude last week that the Liberal Movement’s 2016 financing of the parliamentary election campaign constituted a gross violation of the law. The party disagrees with the conclusion and will take it to court.
In case of gross violation, political parties may be deprived of budgetary allocations for up to two years, with the money going back to the state budget. The party’s right to receive a six-month grant is only restored the next semester after removal of the violation.
The Central Electoral Commission decided that the Liberal Movement violated the law before the 2016 parliamentary elections by accepting a non-monetary donation from a legal entity – Institute of Applied Politics established by the party’s former member Šarūnas Gustainis.
VRK listed as non-monetary contribution the Ready to Win training held by the institute on Jan. 16 through April 24 last year, which cost 45,336 euros. The training was attended by the party’s members, however, the Liberal Movement did not pay any participation fees.