Viewing cable 07VILNIUS290

07VILNIUS2902007-04-26 15:36:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
DE RUEHVL #0290/01 1161536
R 261536Z APR 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000290 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/22/2017 
     ¶B. VILNIUS 40 
     ¶C. 2004 VILNIUS 382 
Classified By: Pol/Econ Chief Rebecca Dunham for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d 
¶1. (C) SUMMARY. The new mayor of Vilnius is Juozas Imbrasas, 
a strong supporter of impeached ex-president Rolandas Paksas 
and member of the Paksas-led Liberal Democratic Party.  His 
election is a first step toward re-establishing Paksas and 
his party as significant political players.  End Summary. 
Municipal Elections in Lithuania 
¶2. (U) Lithuania had local elections for each of its 60 
municipal districts on February 25 (reftels A and B). 
Election of mayors throughout Lithuania is indirect; voters 
elect council members based on party lists, and they, in 
turn, choose the mayor.  Multiparty coalitions are almost 
invariably needed within municipal councils to select a 
mayor, and local coalitions often vary considerably from the 
configuration of political forces at the national level. 
Victory in Vilnius:  the first step toward redemption? 
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¶3. (U) After two months of negotiations, the Vilnius City 
Council elected 67-year old Liberal Democrat Juozas Imbrasas 
mayor on April 16 with a vote of 28 for, one against, and 22 
abstentions.  The Liberal Democrats proposed Imbrasas 
following the public statements of Social Democratic leaders 
that they could not support LibDem party-leader Paksas as 
mayor.  There will be four Vice Mayors, one from each of the 
parties in the coalition: Social Democrat Algirdas Paleckis 
(pa-LETS-kiss), Liberal Movement representative Arunas Staras 
(SHTA-ras), Polish Electoral Action party member Artur 
Liudovski (lyoo-DAV-skee), and Liberal Democrat Evaldas 
Lementauskas (leh-men-TOW-skas). 
¶4. (U) The mayoral victory in Vilnius is the first 
manifestation of the Liberal Democrats' return to power since 
Paksas left the Presidency in disgrace following his 
impeachment for violations of his constitutional oath (ref 
C).  The party rode the wave of Paksas's current popularity 
in the municipal elections, taking 181 council seats 
nationwide and five mayorships.  It continues to do well in 
polls, and could reassert itself at the national level in 
Parliamentary elections slated for Fall 2008. 
Paksas's rise may mean Paleckis's fall 
¶5. (U) The Liberal Democratic Party has come a long way 
toward re-establishing itself as a legitimate ally, at least 
for some politicians, after a long period of political 
isolation.  Paksas managed to attract the support of Social 
Democrat Paleckis, who caused an imbroglio within his own 
party when he initially signaled his intention to support 
Paksas for the mayor's seat.  Paleckis, who ultimately gave 
up his parliamentary seat in order to become a Vice Mayor, so 
angered his party leadership for negotiating with an outcast 
that there is talk of cancelling his party membership.  The 
compromise in supporting Imbrasas allowed the Social 
Democratic Party's central authorities to support the 
coalition.  Nevertheless, there are rumors that Paleckis will 
switch parties and take the first slot on the Liberal 
Democratic list in the 2008 Parliamentary elections. 
¶6. (U) More surprising than Paleckis's behavior to many 
political observers was that Liberal Movement chairman Petras 
Austrevicius decided, apparently on the day of the vote, to 
support the Liberal Democrats.  Many see Austrevicius, who 
himself ran in the Vilnius council elections and would have 
given up his MP seat if he could have become mayor, as one of 
the few principled politicians in the country, and his 
dalliance with Paksas's party jeopardizes that reputation. 
The Liberal Movement in general did very poorly nation-wide 
in the municipal elections.  The media has speculated that, 
in an example of the kind of inter-municipal horse trading 
that is common in Lithuania, in exchange for the Liberal 
Movement's support in Vilnius, the Liberal Democrats promised 
not only a Vilnius vice mayor post, but also to help the 
Liberal Movement gain the mayorship in Klaipeda. 
¶7. (C) The Vilnius mayor's seat went to the party that won 
the most votes in Vilnius.  In most places, this would not 
come as a surprise, but given the serious negotiating that 
goes on in every municipality, it was not a foregone 
VILNIUS 00000290  002 OF 002 
conclusion in Vilnius.  In addition, the chattering classes 
that brought Paksas's downfall in 2004 seemed determined to 
keep him and his party out of the mayor's office in 2007 in 
order to prevent his return to legitimacy.  They succeeded 
only partially, by forcing Paksas to defer to a lesser 
politician from his own party.  Time will tell whether 
Imbrasas will exhibit any independence, or only act on 
Paksas's behalf. 
¶8. (C) The Liberal Democrats ran an innovative grassroots 
campaign, which may partially account for the party's 
popularity nationwide.  Paksas also excels at playing the 
victim (which he may be), and this added to his allure to the 
common man.  Paksas himself is still barred from national 
office, but he is challenging this restriction in the 
European Court of Human Rights.  The head of Lithuania's 
Constitutional Court recently told the Ambassador that Paksas 
has no chance to win that case.  If he does win, Paksas would 
certainly become an MP in Fall 2008 to position himself for a 
presidential run in Summer 2009. 
Bio Note 
¶9. (C) In the Ambassador's courtesy call on him April 25, 
Imbrasas appeared to be pragmatic and intelligent.  He said 
he would eschew major changes in the existing plans for 
Vilnius's year as Europe's culture capital (in 2009), because 
planning is already well underway.  He criticized his 
predecessor's tendency to support projects in which he was 
alleged to have a personal interest.  Imbrasas expressed his 
desire to work positively with the USG. 
¶10. (U) Juozas Imbrasas was born on January 8, 1941 in the 
Ukmerge region of Lithuania.  A construction engineer, he 
graduated from Vilnius Construction Professional School in 
1961, and the Kaunas Polytechnic Institute (Vilnius chapter) 
in 1967.  He was a Conservative Party member from 1995 until 
1999, when he joined the Liberal Union.  He joined the 
Liberal Democratic Party in 2002.  Imbrasas was a strong 
supporter of Paksas during the latter's impeachment process 
in 2003 - 2004, even organizing an un-permitted pro-Paksas 
demonstration in December 2003.  He has been a Vilnius City 
Council member since 1999, and served as mayor from June 1999 
to April 2000.  He is married to Birute Imbrasiene and has a 
son (Gediminas) and a daughter (Ramune).  He speaks Russian 
and a little English.