Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė says that she did not have all information about Julius Pagojus' drunk-driving incident and his later moves to avoid penalties when she took the decision to appoint the Social Democrat as justice minister.
President D. Grybauskaitė
© DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

"The main lesson we learnt is that there are gaps in the vetting process. This is what I wanted to say. I did not have the full information either," she told reporters on Friday when asked why she had approved Pagojus for the job.

The president said that she will not comment on any new Social Democratic candidates for justice minister before they are "seriously" screened and criticized the party for its failure to find a suitable candidate.

"We have already had a failed attempt to appoint the minister. So, it is too early to comment. And this process shows a turmoil in the Special Democratic Party and their inability to find suitable, responsible candidates for the ministerial post," she said.

The coalition deal with the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LPGU), the party that won the October parliamentary elections, gives the Social Democrats the right to propose a candidate to be the next justice minister.

Pagojus, who served as a deputy justice minister in the outgoing government, had been appointed justice minister earlier this week, but he stepped down on Wednesday amid criticism over last year's incident in which he was caught by the police drunk-driving.

The Social Democrats had initially proposed Darius Petrošius for justice minister, but the former parliamentarian withdrew his candidacy after his suitability for the post was publicly questioned due to his family's alleged links with Arunas Pukelis, a controversial businessman in Tauragė, a town in western Lithuania.

The LSDP then decided to propose Julius Sabatauskas, chairman of the parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs, for justice minister, but the Peasants and Greens did not back the 58-year-old Social Democrat for the post, saying that they "want people from the new, younger generation who are not related to certain politicking" in the new coalition government.

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