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2019.12.19 15:00

Lithuanian president vetoes changes to election rules

BNS2019.12.19 15:00

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has refused to sign into law a bill lowering the parliamentary election threshold.

“The president has vetoed the Law on Seimas Elections and is sending it back for deliberation,” Antanas Manstavičius, a presidential adviser, told BNS on Thursday.

The parliament recently passed an amendment, lowering electoral threshold from 5 to 3 percent for parties and from 7 to 5 percent for party coalitions.

“Lowering election thresholds in the multi-member constituency would lead to greater fragmentation of the Seimas, make the formation of the ruling coalition more difficult and hamper the smooth functioning of the Seimas and the government,” Nausėda said in a statement.

According to Nausėda, lower thresholds would lead to the parliament fracturing into small political groups and make the government less stable.

“The problem of citizens' disappointment with democratic institutions should not be dealt with by making hasty and ill-considered amendments to electoral laws,” the president said.

He called for more active efforts to engage citizens and experts in the legislative process.

The new regulation would set lower thresholds for the Seimas elections than those for municipal and European Parliament elections, he noted.

Moreover, lowering the threshold less than a year before the next Seimas election runs counter to the internationally-accepted good practice, Nausėda said.

The president earlier backed a 4-percent threshold for parties and 6 percent for party coalitions.

The Seimas passed the new law on December 10, mostly by votes of the ruling coalition parties. The opposition has criticised the new rule, saying it will result in a more fragmented parliament.

Read more: Lower election threshold in Lithuania – more democracy or more chaos?

Read more: Lithuanian parliament lowers electoral threshold in second attempt

Parliament looks to overturn veto

The two biggest ruling parties have said they will have enough votes to reject Nausėda's veto.

The Farmers and Greens Union and the Social Democratic Labour Party have between them 59 MPs. Overturning a presidential veto requires 71 votes.

“I believe the next step will [...] rejecting the veto. We will try to collect 71 votes to reject the veto for sure,” Farmers and Greens leader Ramūnas Karbauskis told reporters on Thursday.

Gediminas Kirkilas, the leader of the Social Democratic Labour Party, said the parliament would pick up the issue in spring.

“The [president's] decision was a bit of a surprise,” Kirkilas said, adding that Nausėda “succumbed to pressure of major parties”.

The Board of the Seimas later decided that the presidential veto would be voted on during the extended autumn session on January 14.

Social democrat opposition leader Julius Sabatauskas said that the president acted in a “stately” manner by vetoing the law. He also doubted that the ruling parties would manage to muster enough votes to overturn it.

Karbauskis said that if the bid to reject the veto failed, the ruling parties would attempt to set a 4-percent threshold.