Viewing cable 09VILNIUS459
Title: LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER'S TENUOUS HOLD COULD

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
09VILNIUS4592009-08-27 13:46:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius
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DE RUEHVL #0459/01 2391346
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INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000459 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER'S TENUOUS HOLD COULD 
HERALD CHANGES IN GOVERNMENT 
 
¶1.  SUMMARY:  Less than a year after television showman and 
novice politician Arunas Valinskas secured a spot in 
Lithuania's coalition government for his brand-new National 
Revival Party (NRP) and won the Seimas (parliament) Speaker's 
post for himself, his party has split.  Moreover, President 
Grybauskaite has urged Valinskas to resign after he was 
accused in media reports of associating with an 
organized-crime figure.  Valinskas has refused to step down, 
saying the Seimas, which reconvenes September 10, should 
decide whether he ought to keep his post.  Whether he remains 
in office or not, the fractures in his party probably will 
prompt a redistribution of Cabinet positions this autumn. 
End summary. 
 
¶2.  NRP was largely the creation of Valinskas, who has hosted 
several popular shows on Lithuanian TV.  Founded at a time 
when the economy had reversed course after years of strong 
growth, and when the government of former Prime Minister 
Gediminas Kirkilas was unpopular and mistrusted, NRP 
campaigned as being new and fresh, and won votes far beyond 
expectations in autumn 2008 Seimas elections.  NRP became the 
second largest of four parties in the governing coalition and 
was awarded two ministerial posts and the Speaker's chair for 
Valinskas.  But almost immediately, the party's popularity 
began to dissipate.  Political analysts and Seimas members 
attributed the decline to missteps by Valinskas and to 
disillusionment that the party, which had portrayed itself as 
being outside the existing political system, had quickly 
become part of that system.  "We were TV stars, popular," 
said Laimontas Dinius, the party's parliamentary elder (and a 
1980s pop-music star). "But with the financial crisis, we had 
to pass unpopular legislation. That was very unexpected for 
our voters, who thought we would keep acting like TV stars." 
(Dinius, one of the only party members with previous 
government experience, had been a city council member in 
Siauliai, a large provincial city.  He is now a leader of the 
faction that opposes Valinskas.) 
 
¶3. Media turned on Valinskas when he instituted restrictions 
on coverage of the Seimas and when the coalition government 
abolished tax breaks on the purchase of newspapers and other 
publications (and nearly every other product not already 
subject to value-added tax).  Valinskas announced his 
candidacy for president last spring, then withdrew from the 
race when he failed to collect 20,000 valid signatures 
supporting his candidacy.  By the time of the European 
Parliament elections in June, the magic was gone -- even the 
party's own candidates said they expected to lose badly, 
which they did. 
 
¶4.  Talk of an impending split within the NRP had been 
circulating since spring. In July Valinskas and his 
supporters created the new Oak faction but remained within 
the National Revival Party, and Valinskas was still titular 
head of the party. The remaining larger faction, whose 13 
members initially kept the National Revival name, had 
expressed dissatisfaction with the Culture and Environment 
ministers named by the party late last year. 
 
¶5.  Valinskas' already shaky political career took another 
hit in mid-August when Lietuvos Rytas, Lithuania's largest 
daily newspaper, reported that Valinskas has had frequent 
contact with Rolandas Michalskis, a member of an 
organized-crime group in Kaunas, Lithuania's second-largest 
city.  The newspaper reported that Valinskas had, on behalf 
of Michalskis, sought information about an investigation into 
the group's activities.  Michalskis has a criminal record and 
currently faces extortion charges.  His wife is an NRP member 
(but not an elected official).  The report about Valinskas 
and Michalskis resonated with the media and the public and 
has filled the airwaves and newspapers in the slow August 
news season. 
 
¶6.  Opposition parties threatened to impeach Valinskas 
(impeachment being an oft-attempted but rarely successful 
tactic in the Lithuanian parliament).  President Grybauskaite 
met privately with Valinskas and suggested he act honorably 
and resign, then repeated her comments to the media. 
Valinskas asked prosecutors and Lithuania's security services 
whether they had any information concerning criminal activity 
on his part; they said they did not.  Prime Minister Kubilius 
on August 25 suggested a pause of a few days to allow 
emotions on all sides to calm.  He said the Seimas would 
consider the issue in September, but also said that Valinskas 
should consider the opinion of the president and the public 
in making his own decision.  He pointedly said he did not 
disagree with the president's comments. 
 
¶7.  The latest scandal has exacerbated the friction between 
the two NRP factions (and it's likely the newspaper first got 
its information from someone in the non-Valinskas faction). 
Valinskas has filed a defamation suit against Seimas member 
 
VILNIUS 00000459  002 OF 002 
 
 
Aleksandr Sacharuk, a former organized-crime prosecutor now 
among the leaders of the larger NRP faction, over Sacharuk's 
comments about Valinskas and organized crime.  On August 27, 
leaders of that faction said they would abandon the NRP name 
and form a new political party, but wished to remain in the 
governing coalition.  They also said they would work for 
Valinskas' removal from the Speaker's chair. 
 
¶8.  Whether or not Valinskas keeps the Speaker's post, the 
NRP split likely will prompt some realignment of the 
governing coalition this fall, and also some redistribution 
of Cabinet posts.  Valinskas' Oak faction has fewer 
parliamentarians than any other faction in the coalition 
government, yet controls two Cabinet posts plus the Speaker's 
chair.  The other NRP group, with 13 members, is now the 
second-largest faction, yet controls no positions; its 
leaders have said they deserve the right to name two 
ministers. (Dinius, the former pop star, is rumored to want 
the Culture Minister's job for himself.) 
 
¶9.  COMMENT:  The rise and continuing fall of Speaker 
Valinskas has been a diverting sideshow, but has not yet had 
much effect on the government's or parliament's ability to 
function.  Even his opponents have told us that Valinskas is 
very smart, learned fast and has managed the parliament's 
activities adequately.  If the current imbroglio is 
protracted, though, it would take the parliament's attention 
away from much more important business at a time when 
Lithuania is in severe financial straits and needs an 
attentive and responsible legislature.  Any realignment of 
the governing coalition or Cabinet, however, is unlikely to 
lead to significant change in the GOL's outlook or its 
actions on issues of importance to the United States.  End 
comment. 
LEADER