Parties in the Seimas ELECTIONS: Order and Justice

Rolandas Paksas
DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

With the Seimas elections nearing, LRT the Lithuania Tribune begins a special series on the main Lithuanian political parties. Meet the Order and Justice party.

Planned to resign, but changed his mind

The Order and Justice Party has experienced much during its 14 years of existence, from being in government to being investigated by law enforcement. The party leader Rolandas Paksas entered the political spotlight in 1997 as a young politician of the Homeland Union. At the onset of his career he had the opportunity to be a municipal council member and mayor and in 1999 after President Valdas Adamkus expressed mistrust in the then PM Gediminas Vagnorius, Paksas was assigned to lead the ministerial cabinet.

He did not stay in the post for long. Paksas declared he would be leaving it in October 27 of the same year as an expression of protest against the sale of Mažeikių Nafta [Mažeikiai Oil] to the American Williams International, as he saw it as an extremely unfavourable agreement for Lithuania. With the President urging Paksas not to leave his post, the politician remained for some time, seemingly changing his opinion. Such a back and forth engagement continued with Paksas and his team earning the a nickname of “flock of muses” due to their indecisiveness. In the end the politician resigned. That said political observers question some murky stages of Paksas’ biography, posing the question whether it wasn’t the then PM who set up the unfavourable conditions present in the deal with Williams International.

Without a party for just a month

After his resignation as PM, Paksas left the Homeland Union, but stayed without a party only for a short time. He would become the Chairman of the Lithuanian Liberal Union in just a little over a month. The 2000 Seimas elections were successful for the party and it formed a coalition government with the New Union. Paksas once again became PM, but had to withdraw in the summer of 2001 when the New Union withdrew its ministers. In the end Paksas parted with the Liberal Union as well, which is how a new political entity formed, which would be called the Lithuanian Democrat Party from 2002 to 2006. Due to his popularity, Paksas decided to aim for the presidency, winning the run-off in the January 2003 presidential elections against incumbent Valdas Adamkus.

Controversy would prove to follow Paksas in his new position however.

Being pressured used as an excuse

Paksas promised an advisor post to Russian citizen Yuri Borisov for the financial support the Russian businessman had provided in Paksas’ campaign. Borisov’s company Aviabaltika ended up being accused of supplying military goods to Sudan, which was prohibited by international organisations. Borisov admitted having agreements with the President, but did not name them. Nevertheless, secret recordings would show that Borisov stated that Paksas promised him a post as Presidential Advisor. While Paksas initially distanced himself from Borisov, denying any agreements, he later admitted it, blaming pressure for his actions.

After his maneuvering the opposition parties demanded an evaluation of the President psyche. The matter would conclude with accusations of coarse breach of the Constitution and the breach of the Presidential Vows, as Paksas illegally granted Lithuanian citizenship to Borisov. Furthermore using his position he attempted to allow individuals closely related to him to take over the stock of various state companies.

Interactions with a seer led to ridicule even abroad

“Ah, a gypsy foresaw concern. Williams on a surfboard, going up the Nemunas river,” said Paksas in one event. This, however, was no gypsy, but the Georgian Lena Lolishvili, who accompanied Paksas everywhere and sat next to former President Valdas Adamkus during Paksas’ inauguration.
This led to even international ridicule, with for example the French Le Monde calling her the Lithuanian president’s Rasputin. The concern proved to be not Williams, but an impeachment which proved to make Rolandas Paksas the first president in Europe to be removed from his position in this way.

The party and impeached president retained some followers after the scandals, but significantly fewer, earning only ten mandates in the 2004 Seimas election, albeit going to this election rebranded, as the For Order and Justice coalition. Even in this coalition scandals continued with member Evaldas Lementauskas coming under suspicion of giving a bribe to fellow Vilnius council member Vidas Urbonavičius, so that he wouldn’t vote to impeach the then Vilnius Mayor, fellow party member Juozas Imbrasas. Lementauskas was judged guilty two years ago.

Scandals continue into more recent times

The 2008 elections saw Order and Justice relegate to opposition seats, while in 2012 they entered the current coalition government. Here they often would act as the opposition inside the government, with its members often engaging in controversy. No matter what the party would do, its actions would usually be overshadowed by the scandals it would end up in. One such example if the “elephant story” after which Minister of the Interior Alfonsas Barakauskas was removed from his post. Law enforcement agencies performed a number of raids on private housing and places of employment, as well as the headquarters of the Order and Justice Party under suspicions of graft.

Even more recently Paksas himself has come into the spotlight, with the Special Investigation Service (STT) announcing it is investigating a potential agreement between news media group Lietuvos Rytas head Gedvidas Vainauskas and R. Paksas over a bribe that would have had Paksas affect the State Territorial Planning and Construction inspection in order to allow the construction of a Norfa store in Prienai. Vainauskas is now a suspect, while R. Paksas has EP immunity and prosecutors are now waiting for Brussels to respond to a request to cancel Paksas’ immunity.

Party loses a veteran member

“I was one of the founders of the party, its chairman, but I think that the current situation regarding the party leadership makes it difficult or impossible to work in one team with them and work toward goals which I believe I are necessary to Lithuania today. It is better not to obstruct one another,” commented Valentinas Mazuronis, a veteran of the party who left for the Labour Party.

What about some basic information? The party has 13 039 members. It places itself on the centre left ideologically. Manoseimas.lt data suggests that in this Seimas term, the Order and Justice fraction participated in almost two thirds of the votes done and a quarter of their laws and amendments were passed.

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