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Published: 22 november 2012 12:17

Algirdas Butkevičius appointed prime minister of Lithuania: Supporters praise him for tolerance, critics call him spineless

Algirdas Butkevičius
Juliaus Kalinsko / 15min nuotr. / Algirdas Butkevičius

The Lithuanian Seimas endorsed the nomination of Algirdas Butkevičius to be Lithuania's next prime minister. In the preceding discussion, the Social Democratic leader was praised by his supporters for tolerance and caution, while opposition representatives called him spineless.

During Thursday's vote, MPs supported Butkevičius' nomination, 40 opposed, and 4 abstained.

"I have an impression that Butkevičius has become a hostage to the existing situation in Lithuania. On the one hand, he has the president's strong and clear position, and on the other hand, he has the Labour Party as a partner. (…) Once you are between two fires, it’s important to have the backbone, principles. When you listen to Algirdas Butkevičius, it seems that he lacks that backbone," Eligijus Masiulis, elder of the opposition Liberal Movement political group, said in the Seimas.

Jurgis Razma, elder of the opposition Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats political group, said the Conservatives could not support Butkevičius as they didn’t see "the state going forward after backing such a candidate."

Meanwhile partners of the center-left coalition led by Butkevičius said he is an experienced, competent, and tolerant politician.

"Our Algirdas is a cautious man," Irena Šiaulienė, elder of the Social Democratic political group, told lawmakers.

"He's the only candidate who managed to form a ruling majority, a strong ruling majority. As far as I understand, others were also proposed to do that," Valentinas Mazuronis of the Order and Justice Party said.

In his words, there are no doubts about the candidate's competence and experience.

"He is also a man looking for compromises, looking for solutions, he's a man who is capable of saying: Yes, perhaps I made a mistake here," Mazuronis said.

Meanwhile Povilas Gylys of the Path of Courage political group doubted as to whether the future prime minister would have enough will to make decisions necessary for the country and to resist pressure of interest groups.

Viktor Uspaskich, elder of the Labour Party's political group, described Butkevičius as a tolerant, competent specialist and a good financier.

Comparing himself to Obama

Butkevičius cited US President Barack Obama in response to opposition criticism that he lacked political backbone.

"Obama is a pure extrovert inclined to consult his advisers. He is not one of those who stick to their opinions just to avoid making fools of themselves. Obama gives himself a lot of flexibility if he notices that a decision of his was not very good. He easily amends it. And that's one of the important characteristics of a leader," Butkevičius told lawmakers on Thursday.

He was also surprised at reproaches voiced by the opposition that he said one thing in 2005 and now acts differently. "So it means I have to be stubborn and keep singing the same song again and again?" he asked Seimas members.

Butkevičius also expressed regret that some politicians in Lithuanian still lack political culture.

Pursuant to the Lithuanian Constitution, the president appoints and dismisses the prime minister upon the endorsement of the Seimas. The prime minister, within 15 days of his appointment, presents to the Seimas the cabinet which he has formed and which has been approved by the president, and presents its program to the Seimas for consideration.

Butkevičius has been a member of the Seimas since 1996. He served as finance minister in 2004-2005 and was the country's transport minister in 2006-2008.

Following the recent Seimas election, the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania, the Labour Party, the Order and Justice Party, and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania signed a coalition agreement and have 86 seats in the 141-seat parliament.

BNS
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