Rolandas Paksas


Rolandas Paksas

Infobox President


name = Rolandas Paksas
order = President of Lithuania
term_start = February 26 2003
term_end = April 6 2004
predecessor = Valdas Adamkus
successor = Artūras Paulauskas
birth_date = birth date and age|1956|6|10|mf=y
birth_place = Telšiai, Lithuania (then USSR)
party = Order and Justice, Lithuanian Liberal Democrats
spouse =
religion =

Rolandas Paksas (pronunciation|Rolandas Paksas.ogg) (born 10 June 1956 in Telšiai, Samogitia, Lithuania, then USSR) is a well known politician in Lithuania and currently heads the Liberal Democrats Party in Lithuania. He was the President of the Republic of Lithuania from February 26, 2003 to April 6, 2004 when he was impeached. He is the first European head of state to have been impeached.

Early life, education and non-political career

Rolandas Paksas was the only child of Feliksas and Elena Paksas.

In 1974, he graduated Žemaitės Secondary School in Telšiai.

In 1979, he graduated Vilnius Civil Engineering Institute (now Vilnius Gediminas Technical University) with a degree in Industrial and Civil Engineering.

From 1979 to 1985, he worked as a pilot instructor.

From 1985 to 1992, he worked as Director of the "Darius and Girėnas Flying Club" in Vilnius.

In 1984, he graduated Leningrad Civil Aviation Academy as an engineer pilot.

During this period, he competed in aerobatics competitions. He won the national aerobatics championship in Lithuania several times, the national championship of the Soviet Union twice and was the winner of international aerobatics competitions.

From 1992 to 1997, Rolandas Paksas was the President of the construction company "Restako".

Political career

On April 11, 1997, Rolandas Paksas was elected to Vilnius City Council and became the Mayor of the Vilnius city municipality. He helped reconstruct the Vilnius Old Town that was neglected by the Lithuanian SSR and is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Paksas also served as chairman of Vilnius branch of the Homeland Union (Lithuanian Conservatives).

As early as August 1998, Paksas was mentioned in "Verslo Žinios" ("Business News") as a possible candidate to replace Prime Minister of Lithuania Gediminas Vagnorius if he got a vote of no confidence in the Seimas. In 1998, in a survey published by "Lietuvos Rytas", Paksas was voted one of the most influential 5 people of the year.

In May 1999, Vagnorius stepped down and President Valdas Adamkus asked Paksas to become the Prime Minister. The Conservatives had 68 of the Seimas' 138 seats and were part of an 81-member coalition with the Lithuanian Christian Democrats. He did not accept the post immediately as he joked that his bodyguards would not fit into his stunt plane.

In June 1999, he became Prime Minister, heading the ninth Government after independence. Five months later, he resigned because of a disagreement over the sale of Mazeikiu Nafta, the Lithuanian oil processing company to American oil company Williams Companies. After his resignation, he became an Adviser to the President of Lithuania and Plenipotentiary of the President for Special Assignments.

In April 2000, he became the Mayor of the Vilnius city municipality again.

In 2000, he was elected as the Prime Minister in the eleventh Cabinet and served from November 2000 to June 2001.

In March 2002, Paksas was elected as a chairman of his newly founded Liberal Democratic Party. On January 5, 2003, he was elected President of Lithuania, after a surprise win over the incumbent Valdas Adamkus in a runoff. In the first round of elections, Paksas was the second, with 19.7% of vote but, in the runoff, he gathered 54.9%.

On February 26, 2003, his term as a President began. During his term, Rolandas Paksas had been accused by his opponents of having ties with the Russian mafia although this was never proven. He had allegedly tried to extort some private companies, like the road construction company Žemaitijos keliai, by putting pressure on their owners. Yuri Borisov, a prominent businessman and President of an aviation company, Avia Baltika, who had previously helped sponsor and support Paksas' political movement was given Lithuanian citizenship which led to an outcry by the natioanalists as Borisov was an ethnic Russian. Paksas' connections were later revealed by the Department of Security, which was run by Mečys Laurinkus. In early 2004, the Seimas started impeachment proceedings against him.

Lithuania became a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (on March 29, 2004) during Paksas' tenure in office.

On March 31, 2004, the Constitutional Court of Lithuania found him guilty. After the Constitutional Court's ruling, the Seimas effectively removed him from the presidency through a secret ballot on April 6, 2004.

Paksas attempted to run for the presidency again in the newly-called elections of June 13, 2004. His attempts were effectively ended on May 4, 2004, when - as per the Constitutional Court's ruling - an amendment to Lithuania's Election Law was made banning an impeached President from running again for any public office requiring an oath. This prevents Paksas from running for either President or Legislative office.

Apparently, Paksas has not renounced his political ambitions. In a rare interview with a Lithuanian daily, "Kauno diena", on October 27, 2005, Paksas claimed that he is going to become the President of Lithuania once again. The journalist, considering the new election law, asked Paksas just how he was going to become a President. Paksas, however, declined to elaborate and commented that he would be a "bad politician" if he went into details.

He also did not disclose if he has ambitions to become a mayor of Vilnius once again (mayors in Lithuania do not take oaths, exempting them from the ban).

Paksas, as Chairman of the Liberal Democrats of Lithuania, caused controversy when he announced on January 12, 2006 that he is admitting Audrius Butkevicius to the party. Butkevicius was once Defense Minister and MP who was convicted and served time in jail for taking bribes back in 1998.

Legal trouble following impeachment

Paksas was convicted in 2005 by a District Court of Vilnius for disclosing classified information (state secrets) during his time in office as a president of the Republic (after the impeachment was over, and he was removed from office, the prosecution charged him with revealing a state secret to his financial sponsor, the Russian businessman Jurij Borisov).

The prosecution alleged that on March 17, 2003 Paksas hinted to Borisov, in one of their private conversations, that Borisov's phones were tapped and that his calls were being screened by the authorities–information Paksas earlier received and was briefed on by the head of Lithuania's National Security Department. He was found guilty by the District Court; however, since he was already removed from the office, the Court deemed it unnecessary to impose on him a punishment. It was concluded that, albeit guilty, Paksas no longer presented a danger to the State.

However, Paksas appealed to the Supreme Court of Lithuania, arguing that there was no direct evidence to suggest that he leaked a state secret during the time when he served as the President of the Republic. He hired top lawyers of Lithuania, specializing in criminal law, to defend him in front of the Supreme Court panel consisting of seven judges.

The Supreme Court, on December 13, 2005, acquitted Paksas and overturned the verdict of the District Court. The ruling cannot be appealed.

Paksas praised the Supreme Court's ruling and announced his plans to continue fighting in the courts. He is now planning to attack the Constitutional Court's decision of 2004, which found him guilty of violating the Constitution of the Republic on three counts, and breaking his oath. Paksas assured that he intends to petition the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, as he claimed that the 2004 ruling of the Constitutional Court, and the subsequent decision of the Seimas to remove him from office were unconstitutional.

Paksas and his party are currently looking for ways to annul the Constitutional Court's ruling since it prevents him from holding major public office again.

Personal life

Rolandas Paksas is married. His wife Laima is an economist and they have two children: daughter Inga (married) and son Mindaugas. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/eu/story/0,,1195905,00.html The Baltic tortoise | World news | guardian.co.uk ] ] .

References

External links

* [http://www.ldp.lt/ Liberal Democrats Party of Lithuania] .
* [http://www.nato.int/pfp/lt/biogr/r_paksas0.html Biographical facts] from the NATO website.

See also

# Andrius Vilkancas, "FOCUS-Lithuania mayor nominated prime minister", Reuters News, 10 May 1999.


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