The Lithuanian parliament gave its initial backing to lowering the electoral benchmark for parties running for the legislature. Authors of the amendment claim it will increase the representativeness of the parliament, while opponents warn of more fragmentation and chaos.
Now parties need to get at least 5 percent of the vote to be awarded seats in the Seimas, but the proposed amendment would lower the threshold to 3 percent. The bill also proposes a 5-percent benchmark for party coalitions, instead of the current 7 percent.
Sixty-two MPs voted in favour of the change, 44 were against and five abstained.
The proposal was put forward by Ramūnas Karbauskis, leader of the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, and Naglis Puteikis, leader of the Centre Party.
One more vote is needed to adopt the amendment.
Following the vote on Thursday, MP Jurgis Razma, representing the opposition conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, asked for an adjournment and the matter was postponed until the next parliamentary sitting.
Presenting the proposal, Puteikis said “democratic countries are consciously reducing the threshold for a larger part of the population to have their representatives in the parliament”.
“A more colourful parliament will ensure a higher quality of democracy,” the MP said.
The parliamentary Committee on State Administration and Local Authorities earlier refused to back the proposal and suggested a 4-percent option, but changed its mind and endorsed the bill on Wednesday.
“Chaos, inability to reach agreements and inadequate decisions have already become characteristic of this Seimas. If we want more random people in the next Seimas, let's back the proposal,” MP Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, representing the opposition, said during the parliamentary debate. “I would like to remind you that, just two weeks ago, the committee voted against lowering the threshold to 3 percent.”
Half of the members in Lithuania's 141-seat legislature are elected via a proportional representation system, but party lists need to clear the electoral threshold.
In the 2016 general election, six parties cleared the 5-percent mark. Two more lists would have been awarded seats under the new rule.