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2021.02.25 14:22

Ruling party calls for major review of Lithuania's election rules

Jūratė Skėrytė, BNS2021.02.25 14:22

The conservative Homeland Union (TS-LKD), the biggest party in the Lithuanian parliament, Seimas, is launching an initiative to review the country's electoral system, with a focus on parliamentary and municipal elections.

In a letter to the Board of the Seimas, Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė, head of the party's political group in the parliament, suggested appointing a task group to work out draft legislative amendments by September. The task group would hold consultations with the public, scholars and political parties.

Read more: How Lithuania’s mixed election system works – explainer

All political parties in the Seimas would have their representatives in the group.

“We see that there have been many initiatives in the parliament to amend individual aspects of the electoral system,” Andrius Vyšniauskas, deputy head of the Homeland Union's parliamentary group, told BNS.

“For example, the opposition Social Democrats suggest changing the financing [rules] of parties and political campaigns,” the MP said. “Our coalition partners [liberals] are talking about lowering voting age.”

Rather than resort to piecemeal changes, the parliament should thoroughly review the current system and propose amendments.

“We believe that this year is the time when both the system and the regulation of all elections can be properly reviewed,” according to Vyšniauskas.

The task group should look into direct mayoral elections and the regulation of public electoral committees running in municipal polls, Vyšniauskas said, noting that the Constitutional Court is expected to rule in spring on the constitutionality of direct mayoral elections.

The task group should also look at whether direct presidential elections are commensurate with the president's powers, according to the MP.

The conservatives also call for a more in-depth discussion on making the electoral system more proportional.

Currently, 71 of 141 members of the Seimas are elected in single-member constituencies and the remaining 70 seats are filled through a nation-wide proportional vote. Parties must cross the five-percent threshold to be allocated seats in the parliament under the proportional representation system.

Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, the speaker of the Seimas, told BNS through her spokesman that the efficiency of the Seimas election system is called into question frequently enough “for the Board of the Seimas to initiate a formal discussion on possibilities to improve our electoral system”.

The Liberal Movement, the speaker's party, is in favour of an in-depth discussion on this topic, according to her.

The conservatives say that with two years to go before the next vote – Lithuania is holding municipal elections in spring 2023 – now is the best time to review the electoral system.