Parliament picks bomb hoaxer as speaker:Lithuania
Lithuania's newly elected parliament has chosen as its new speaker a popular television talent show host once convicted of placing a prank call about a bomb in a hotel.
The speaker is first in line to lead the ex-Soviet state, which joined the European Union and NATO in 2004, if the president dies in office or is dismissed.
Lithuania's center-right opposition beat a Social Democrat-led coalition last month in elections dominated by voters' worries about economic slowdown and double-digit inflation.
The 141-member parliament, the Seimas, elected Arunas Valinskas by a vote of 79 to 58 in a second ballot late on Monday after he failed to get a majority in the first vote.
"It was the first test for the ruling coalition, and I am happy we have passed it," Valinskas, 41, said after the vote.
Valinskas's National Resurrection Party, formed a few months before the parliamentary elections, unexpectedly won 16 seats in the October vote and joined a four party center-left coalition.
His wife, a pop singer, was also elected to the Baltic state's parliament on the party list, which included a number of other performers.
Valinskas's ability to lead the parliament was questioned not only by opposition politicians, but also by some members of his center-right coalition.
"Is anyone a saint here?" Valinskas asked when reminded that he was sentenced in 1999 for placing a hoax call to the police about a bomb he said had been planted in a hotel where his friends' wedding was taking place.
It was meant to be a joke for a couple for whom Valinskas acted as matchmaker, but the court fined him 15,000 Lithuanian litas ($5,484), which he delivered in a huge pile of small coins in a trailer.
Valinskas, who campaigned for social justice, said he would take from parliament's payroll only a sum equal to an average pension of 800 litas and give the rest away to the needy.
He also promised to regain people's trust in parliament, one of the least trusted institutions in the country of 3.4 million, according to opinion polls.