Lithuania's election body to hand down resigned MP's mandate

Kęstutis Pūkas

Lithuania's Central Electoral Commission is handing down the mandate of Kęstutis Pūkas, the embattled MP who stepped down just before the impeachment vote, to former MP Ona Valiukevičiūtė.

On Monday, the election body will decide on transferring the mandate to Valiukeviciute who was the first candidate of the Order and Justice party below the line in the 2016 elections.

"The powers of mister Pukas were terminated by the resolution of Jan. 12, in light of this resolution we will conclude that a vacant MP slot has emerged, and it should be filled by the first candidate on the list who did not receive the mandate," Laura Matjošaitytė, the head of the election authority, told BNS.

She confirmed receipt of pleas from Pūkas and his lawyer Aušra Ručienė to postpone the matter due to the lawyer's trip abroad. In Matjošaitytė's words, the pleas will be discussed during the meeting, however, forecast that a decision will be made to hand over the mandate to Valiukevičiūtė.

"Pūkas has been notified that we will address the matter, he will be able to attend the hearing and read his statement," said the head of the election watchdog, at the same time confirming that the parliament had already decided on Pūkas' resignation, which makes his participation in the meeting redundant.

Pūkas submitted resignation after the parliament had started hearing an impeachment bid against him on Jan. 12. The politician took the step before the planned vote on cancellation of his mandate.

The parliament immediately passed a resolution to satisfy his resignation, terminating the impeachment proceedings. The Seimas statute allows a person under impeachment to step down at any time of the proceedings, however, prior to the vote. Under the statute, the resignation has to be accepted without delay and takes effect after it is published in the media.

By resigning, Pūkas kept the possibility to run for later elections. The Constitution currently bans persons removed by way of impeachment from running for parliament or president.

Pukas said he was resigning amid the parliament's failure to ensure his right to defense, as lawmakers started discussing his mandate, while his lawyer was abroad. The parliament stated that Ruciene was aware of the hearing in advance, therefore, her trip to Argentina should not be considered a valid reason for postponement.

Pūkas faced impeachment over sexual harassment allegations after the Constitutional Court ruled he had breached his oath and violated the Constitution. The MP is suspected of sexually harassing a number of females who had applied to work as his assistants.

Prosecutors have brought sexual harassment and undue weapon possession suspicions against Pūkas. Four persons have been listed as victims in the sexual harassment probe.

Pūkas won his MP mandate through the list of the Order and Justice party. If his mandate is revoked, his post would be filled by former MP Ona Valiukevičiūtė who has already served three terms between 2004 and 2016.

Source: BNS
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