Though Paksas was impeached for granting Lithuanian citizenship to Yuriy Borisov, a campaign contributor, a ruling passed by the European Court of Human Rights three years ago said that the current life-long ban from running for office applied to Paksas is a disproportionate punishment.
The amendment proposed by members of the Order and Justice party, which Paksas leads, would have reduced the ban on electing individuals who have been convicted of gross constitutional violations to the Seimas or to the president's office to 10 years. This would have allowed Paksas to run for these offices.
On Tuesday, 83 Seimas members voted for the amendment, 11 voted against it, and 13 abstained, meaning that the Seimas could not reach the 94 affirmative votes required to pass a constitutional amendment. Constitutional amendments can be passed in Lithuania when they are voted for by a two-thirds majority or more of the 141-seat Seimas during two separate votes held at least 3 months apart. The previous vote for this amendment was affirmative.
The amendment was voted for by 37 Social Democratic Party members, 11 Order and Justice Party members, 14 Labour Party members, five Liberals, eight Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania members, and eight other members.
Petras Gražulis, a member of the Order and Justice Party, pointed out that half of the Labour party had left the Seimas hall before the vote, which he claimed was a betrayal; “Today, the Labour party betrayed R. Paksas and the Order and Justice party,” he said. The Labour party has 29 members in the Seimas, and only 14 of them participated in the vote.
The Conservative party's members in the Seimas all either voted against the amendment or abstained. According to Andrius Kubilius, the party's leader, the proposed amendment should only apply to running for the Seimas, rather than to running for the presidency as well.
Krupavičius: This will work in Paksas' favour
Algis Krupavičius, a professor and political scientist at the Kaunas University of Technology, said that the Seimas' decision would be useful for Paksas in the short term. Had the Seimas allowed him to run, he would have led his party in the Seimas elections but would have had to forego his European Parliament mandate.
“In the short term, we can see certain dividends. The other thing is that Lithuania will still need to solve this problem, because the court in Strasbourg ruled that the punishment was disproportionate. The question will still remain on our political to-do list. In this sense, the Seimas' vote was useful for Paksas,” Krupavičius told Delfi. The ongoing nature of the issue will keep Paksas in the public eye.
“On the other hand, Paksas' absence from the elections won't be a good thing for the Order and Justice party. One way or another, Paksas is a politician who can make voters more favourable to this party,” said Krupavičius.
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