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Prime Minister asks President to dismiss Minister of Interior Raimundas Palaitis

Andrius Kubilius, Raimundas Palaitis
BFL/Tomo Lukšio nuotr. / Andrius Kubilius, Raimundas Palaitis
Šaltinis: BNS

Lithuania's Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius submitted a proposal to President Dalia Grybauskaitė to fire Interior Minister Raimundas Palaitis, presidential adviser Daiva Ulbinaitė confirmed to BNS on Tuesday.

The prime minister said Palaitis made a mistake by rushing to sack director of the Financial Crimes Investigation Service Vitalijus Gailius and his deputy Vytautas Giržadas.

Kubilius appointed Raimondas Šukys as acting interior minister, the prime minister's adviser Virgis Valentinavičius confirmed to BNS.

The Pesident pledged to decide on the matter over the next week after meeting with the minister and Algis Čaplikas, leader of the ruling Liberal and Center Union that nominated Palaitis to the government.

"Yes, I can confirm that the proposal from the prime minister in connection with the dismissal of the interior minister has been received. The president will look into all circumstances, including the prime minister's proposal. The final decision will be made after a meeting with the minister and the delegating party's chairman in the beginning of next week," Ulbinaitė told BNS.

According to a press release circulated by the prime minister's service, Kubilius submitted the proposal in the light of the conclusions drawn by the parliamentary Anti-Corruption Commission after a probe into the sacking of the FCIS officers.

"I believe that the decision is necessary for the ruling coalition's efforts to responsibly address the existing problems and continue the constructive work until the end of the tenure. We will later discuss with coalition partners the ways of solving the problems in the internal affairs system in order to avoid such situations in the future," the prime minister said.

Palaitis, member of the ruling Liberal and Center Union, came under fire of another ruling party, the conservatives, after he dismissed the two top leaders of the Financial Crime Investigation Service, Gailius and Giržadas, on 15 February, after a recommendation from the State Security Department. The department was investigating possible leak of information about Snoras bank shortly before its nationalization.

The minister initially demanded that Giržadas were dismissed, however, both top officers were sacked after Gailius stood up for his deputy. Gailius has said that the president had also directly urged him to fire Giržadas.

The parliamentary Anti-Corruption Commission also performed a probe into the move and ruled that the minister could have had personal or party reasons to have Gailius and Giržadas out of the service.

Political mistake

Algis Čaplikas, leader of the ruling Liberal and Center Union, says that Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius has made a political mistake by proposing that the President should sack the union's Raimundas Palaitis from interior minister.

"Yet another political mistake made by the leader of the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats," Čaplikas told BNS.

Parliament Speaker supports the motion

In Parliament Speaker Irena Degutienė's view, Kubilius was right in asking the President to dismiss the Minister.

She also noted that Liberal and Center Union had the slot of the interior minister under the coalition pact, adding that the party could propose a candidate who would replace Palaitis in the post.

"In the light of the conclusions drawn by the Anti-Corruption Commission and yesterday's coalition meeting, the prime minister made the right decision, as the situation should be settled as soon as possible," Degutienė told journalists on Tuesday.

"I believe that, if Liberal and Center Union wants to work the way it declares and wants to work together, our coalition agreement stipulates that the position of the interior minister belongs to the Liberal Centrists, they can nominate another candidate and then proceed with the work that has been started, especially since we have highly responsible tasks in the spring session and we should work together," she added.

Waiting for President's decision

Upon hearing the news, Interior Minister Raimundas Palaitis said he would wait for the decision of President Dalia Grybauskaite.

"My position remains unchanged – I acted in line with Lithuanian laws, I am convinced my actions were legitimate and I have no intentions to resign. I will wait for the president's decision," Palaitis told BNS on Tuesday.

He is currently on a visit to Tallinn, attending a meeting with his Latvian and Estonian colleagues. From Estonia, Palaitis will proceed to a meeting in Brussels and will be back in Vilnius on Friday.

Asked about the possibility to stay on the team with Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, if the president refuses his proposal, Palaitis responded in the positive.

"I've been working there for three years, a single personality matter does not change anything," he said.

Analysts do not predict government collapse

Political experts say that the Lithuanian prime minister's steps to remove Interior Minister Raimundas Palaitis would not lead to collapse of the ruling three-party coalition.

Political scientist Algis Krupavičius says that Liberal and Center Union, which delegated Palaitis to the government, would not benefit from leaving the bloc.

"Will they gain any additional dividends by withdrawing from the coalition – the answer would be 'probably not'," he told BNS on Tuesday.

"The minister's removal should not have any direct threats to the existing coalition, if the coalition partners act wisely, however, flames and emotions should subside," Krupavicius said.

Another political expert, Antanas Kulakauskas, said that after the prime minister's proposal to the president to sack the minister, the position of President Dalia Grybauskaite could be influenced by the public opinion that supports the sacked officers of the Financial Crimes Investigation Service.

"The president wants to keep her ratings, as they are the source of power and influence in the society. This is more than ratings for the sake of ratings. She does not have extensive constitutional powers and they are sometimes difficult to use. When she proposes decisions to the parliament now, the Seimas often passes them, as the ratings put the president's powers above those of the Seimas. And the society's opinion in the scandal of the fired FCIS officers is behind them," he argued.

"If the president clearly supports the government, the Liberal Centrists will probably generate the need to look for a different minister instead of demonstrating their principles, if they do not want to transfer to the opposition," Kulakauskas said.

Asked whether the president could keep the minister in the post, Kulakauskas told BNS: "I think she can, if she has some information that she hasn't mentioned, even in an abstract manner."

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