Viewing cable 09VILNIUS273
Title: PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS MAY 17; WHAT ARE THE

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
09VILNIUS2732009-05-15 13:16:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
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DE RUEHVL #0273/01 1351316
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 151316Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3502
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000273 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/15/2019 
TAGS: PGOV LH
SUBJECT: PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS MAY 17; WHAT ARE THE 
PRESIDENT'S POWERS? 
 
REF: VILNIUS 254 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John A. Cloud for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
¶1. (U) Summary:  European Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite 
continues to far outpace the six other candidates in opinion 
polls for the May 17 presidential election.  No analyst or 
politician we have talked to has questioned whether she will 
win the presidency, but only whether she will do so in the 
first round.  The Lithuanian Constitution assigns some 
substantive powers to the president.  But those powers are 
not always well defined by the Constitution, so a president's 
strength can depend in large part on personal popularity or 
support in the parliament.  With election day nigh, and with 
Grybauskaite indicating that she would push for a stronger 
role, a look at Lithuanian presidential power is timely.  End 
summary. 
 
¶2. (U) Lithuania's Constitution says that the president 
decides the basic issues of foreign policy and, together with 
the government, conducts foreign policy.  But the president 
has much less say in setting economic and other domestic 
policies.  The president can initiate legislation, and can 
veto laws passed by the Seimas (parliament).  The president 
also appoints and can dismiss the prime minister, with the 
assent of the Seimas, and can approve, or not, the ministers 
selected by the prime minister. 
 
¶3. (C) We spoke recently with three former presidential 
advisors about the possibilities and limits of presidential 
power in Lithuania.  Lauras Bielinis resigned in April from 
his post as domestic-policy advisor to President Valdas 
Adamkus.  Toma Birmontiene was a legal advisor to President 
Adamkus in 2004-05 and now sits on the Constitutional Court. 
Alvydas Medalinskas was foreign-policy advisor to Rolandas 
Paksas, the president who was impeached in 2004.  All agreed 
that a president's personality and standing, as well as his 
or her level of support in the Seimas, can determine how much 
power a Lithuanian president wields, especially in domestic 
policy.  "According to the Constitution, a president cannot 
interfere much in domestic matters," said Bielinis.  "But if 
we're not talking about executive power, but about moral 
authority, that's very important." 
 
¶4. (U) Grybauskaite, on leave from her job as European 
Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget, has an 
overwhelming lead over the six other candidates for 
president, according to all opinion polls (reftel).  On the 
campaign trail, she has said that the president needs to 
spend more time focusing on domestic concerns, rather than 
traveling and dealing with foreign relations.  Grybauskaite, 
a former minister of finance, also said an early task for the 
new president should be to determine "what can be fixed by 
the president, together by the president and the government, 
or by the government under pressure from the president's 
office."  She said, "I will be eager to, and will be, 
actively intervening in government actions.  My advisors will 
be sitting in on government meetings each week.  I do have 
experience in managing critical situations.  I will be 
proposing new laws myself." 
 
¶5. (C) Medalinskas, however, pointed out that the 
Constitution gives the president policy-making power only in 
foreign affairs.  "Grybauskaite knows not so much about 
foreign policy, but she knows everything about economics," he 
said.  "According to the Constitution, though, there is very 
little" that would allow her to assume power to set economic 
policy.  "I would predict a very serious clash between the 
government, especially the Kubilius government, and 
Grybauskaite on economic issues.  Her position will very much 
depend on her popularity and the unpopularity of the prime 
minister." 
 
¶6. (C) Birmontiene said, "The instruments of power are 
Constitutional only.  But the president's ability to 
influence depends on other factors.  A parliamentary majority 
plays a big role.  The presidency of (Algirdas) Brazauskas 
showed this, because he had a strong Social Democrat majority 
in the Seimas when he was first elected. But when he lost 
that majority, he looked like a man with no power at all." 
 
¶7. (C) Bielinis said that President Adamkus, in his second 
term, did not enjoy strong political support in the Seimas. 
"But the relationship was defined by the respect Seimas 
members had towards him.  The personal authority or personal 
respect for the president is important.  If he doesn't have 
any kind of support in the Seimas, he will simply be 
ignored." 
 
¶7. (U) Grybauskaite has the formal support of the 
Conservative and Liberal Movement parties, two of the four 
parties in the ruling coalition.  The Conservatives, led by 
 
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Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, are by far the largest 
parliamentary party with 45 of 141 seats.  The two other 
coalition partners do not have their own candidates running 
and have not formally endorsed any single candidate. 
 
¶8. (C) Despite a recent surge in attacks on her by the 
national daily newspaper Respublika, Grybauskaite's 
popularity remains high.  We have heard that since Respublika 
opened its campaign against Grybauskaite, financial 
contributions to her campaign have risen dramatically.  It 
remains to be seen whether this last-minute display of 
support will be enough to put her over the top, either in the 
first or, if needed, the second round. 
CLOUD