Category Archives: Lithuania

Lithuania – A different type of presidential power

Continuing the theme of presidential powers and/or (non-)powers, here is an example from Lithuania.

In early January President Dalia Grybauskaitė refused to grant Lithuanian citizenship to an American ice skater who wanted to compete for Lithuania in the Winter Olympics. This is an interesting power in itself. For example, it could be a factor in who can or cannot stand at elections.

Anyway, following her decision, President Grybauskaitė then asked the Constitutional Court for guidance as to when she could grant citizenship, and whether the rules can be loosened by way of a simply law or whether a constitutional amendment is required. Lithuania Tribune now reports that the Court has agreed to accept the motion filed by President Grybauskaitė.

Now, these presidential powers are constitutional. Art. 84 (21) states that the president has the power to “grant citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania according to the procedure established by law”. Arts. 106 and 107 provide circumstances in which the president can petition the Court, though it is not clear from the president’s website which clause has been invoked.

I like this example because it is a case of a president using the law to identify the boundaries of certain powers, including presidential powers. But I also like it in the context of Lithuania’s current period of de facto cohabitation and the President Grybauskaitė’s desire to establish her own prerogatives in opposition to the government. Any Court ruling is unlikely to expand the president’s power significantly, but it may put pressure on the government either to change the law or even the constitution and there may be political costs to the government in doing so.

So, the ‘non-partisan’ president may find that her powers are slightly increased; she certainly keeps herself in the public eye; and she may cause some difficulty to the government down the line. That’s good presidential politics.

Lithuania – President weighs in to the debate about government formation

The president of Lithuania is a relatively insignificant office. The institution has some powers, including the power to initiate legislation and to veto legislation. Indeed, by my calculations, the incumbent president, Dalia Grybauskaitė, has vetoed 24 bills since she came to office in July 2009. Overall, though, the Lithuanian president is not as strong a figure as, say, the French President, but more resembles the presidency in countries such as Portugal and Poland.

Just over a week ago the second round of the parliamentary election in Lithuania was held. A three-party coalition quickly agreed to form a majority government. These are the Social Democrats, who will provide the PM, the Labour Party, and the right-wing Order and Justice Party. In addition, the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania may also join the coalition to form a surplus majority coalition.

The problem is that President Grybauskaitė believes the Labour Party should not be in government. She is reported as saying that “the government should not involve a party, which is suspected of black bookkeeping and leaders of which are charged with fraudulent bookkeeping”. According to a long-standing Constitutional Court ruling, the president plays no independent role in government formation. So, President Grybauskaitė has no formal powers in this regard. Instead, her comments seem intended to try to force a new coalition agreement, presumably including the former ruling party, the Homeland Union, whom she seems to support, even though she is an independent.

Last week, President Grybauskaitė took the situation a stage further by appealing some of the election results to the Constitututional Court. The Central Electoral Commission had previously issued a final report, confirming the results of the election but noting various violations of the electoral law and ordering one constituency election to be repeated. In her appeal, President Grybauskaitė drew attention to the result in seven single-seat constituencies and one multi-member constituency.

There is speculation as to why the president took this decision. However, it almost certainly has something to do with the Labour Party and government formation. The Labour Party is currently under criminal investigation and there is the possibility that its leader may be found guilty and/or that the party will be suspended or disbanded. So, the president may be playing for time in an attempt to ensure a different coalition in the end.

Over the weekend the Constitutional Court made its decision. There were criticisms of the Labour Party and vote buying, but the result of the election was not questioned. Even so, President Grybauskaitė interpreted the decision as vindicating her belief that the Labour Party was not fit for office.

The new parliament met for the first time yesterday. So, there is no question of the election being invalidated and the proposed coalition will almost certainly be approved including the Labour Party and possibly the Polish party.

Overall, while Lithuania is not formally entering a period of cohabitation because the president is an independent, there is likely to be a difficult relationship between President Grybauskaitė and the government if the Labour Party is indeed in power.

Lithuania – Parliamentary election, 2nd round

The second round of the parliamentary election in Lithuania was held on Sunday.

The results are as follows (1st round seats reported first):

  • Labour Party (DP), 17 seats, 12 seats = 29 seats
  • Social Democratic Party of Lithuania (LSDP), 15 seats, 23 seats, total = 38
  • Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD), 13 seats, 20 seats = 33 seats
  • Liberals’ Movement of the Republic of Lithuania (LRLS), 7 seats, 3 seats = 10 seats
  • Way of Courage (DK), 7 seats, 0 seats = 7 seats
  • Order and Justice (TT), 6 seats, 5 seats = 11 seats
  • Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (LLRA), 5 seats, 3 seats = 8 seats
  • Peasants and Green Union, 0 seats, 1 seat = 1 seat
  • Independents, 0 seats, 3 seats = 3 seats

A parliamentary majority is 71 seats. The left-wing Labour Party, the Social Democratic Party, and the right-wing Order and Justice party have already agreed a coalition. The Social Democrats will supply the PM. The leader of the Social Democrats, Algirdas Butkevičius, has said that other parties may join the government.

Meanwhile, President Dalia Grybauskaitė has created some controversy by declaring that Labour Party should not be included in the government. There is a report here. Officially, President Grybauskaitė is an independent. However, prior to the election she expressed support for the outgoing conservative-led government. While she has vetoed certain pieces of government legislation during her time as president, the chances are that the number of vetoes will increase substantially if she is faced with a left-wing government.

Lithuania – Parliamentary election

The first round of the parliamentary election in Lithuania was held yesterday. In the first round, 70 seats are allocated on a proportional basis with a 5% threshold. In addition, voting took place in 71 single-member constituencies. The second round of voting will be held on 28 October.

Here are the provisional but seemingly almost final results from the Electoral Commission website for the proportional election:

  • Labour Party (DP), 20.15% (17 seats)
  • Social Democratic Party of Lithuania (LSDP), 18.56% (16 seats)
  • Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD), 14.77% (12 seats)
  • Liberals’ Movement of the Republic of Lithuania (LRLS), 8.26% (7 seats)
  • Way of Courage (DK), 7.89% (7 seats)
  • Order and Justice (TT), 7.42% (6 seats)
  • Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (LLRA), 5.87% (5 seats)
  • No other party crossed the 5% threshold

The outgoing government was a coalition of the TS-LKD, the LRLS, National Resurrection Party and the Liberal and Centre Union (LCU). Recently, the National Resurrection Party and the Liberal and Centre Union fused under the LCU name. In relation to the 2008 election, TS-LKD has lost about 5% of the vote, whereas LRLS actually gained about 3%. However, in 2012 the LCU won just 2.07% of the vote, whereas the National Resurrection Party and the LCU won over 20% at the last election. For their part, the opposition parties gained. The Labour Party gained over 10% and the LSDP gained nearly 7% compared with 2008. The Way of Courage is also a new party. Generally, the result is being seen as another ‘austerity’ election.

The second round will determine the final outcome. There is a nice pre-election report at The Monkey Cage, which suggest that the opposition Labour Party and the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania will have difficulty forming a stable coalition.

Lithuania – Government survives for the moment

The coalition crisis in Lithuania has, for the moment, been relieved. The main line of division was between PM Andrius Kubilius of the HU/LCD and the coalition LCU party. The PM had demanded the resignation of LCU’s Minister of the Interior, Raimundas Palaitis. The Minister had refused to resign.

For the time being, the crisis has been resolved. Lithuania Tribune reports that Minister Palaitis resigned on 19 March. Apparently, the decision came after a meeting between President Grybauskaite, the PM, the chair of the LCU, and Minister Palaitis. Therefore, the president’s intervention seems to have been decisive.

However, there is still the threat of an early election. On 10 April, parliament will decide whether or not early elections should be held. They are scheduled for October, but the instability may still provoke an early election.

Lithuania – Coalition under pressure

Parliamentary elections in Lithuania are due to be held in October. The current coalition comprises the Homeland Union/Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU/LCD), the Nation’s Resurrection Party, the Liberal Movement of Lithuanian Republic, and Liberal and Centre Union (LCU).

In the run up to the election, relations between the coalition partners are becoming strained.

On 6 March, PM Andrius Kubilius (HU/LCD) requested that President Dalia Grybauskaitė (independent) dismiss the Minister of the Interior, Raimundas Palaitis (LCU). According to Lithuania Tribune, in February the Minister had sacked two members of the Financial Crimes Investigation Service. The PM opposes this decision.

In response, President Grybauskaitė seems to have indicated that she will not accept the PM’s request for the minister’s resignation, stating that problems between the coalition partners should be resolved in parliament. I take that to mean that she supports either the status quo or the exit of either HU/LCD or the LCU from the government, presumably triggering an early election. However, she will not be the agent of a tug-of-war between the two parties.

So far, LCU has not withdrawn from the government. Presumably, this is the trap the PM is trying to lay for the LCU.

Yesterday, the tension was increased because an interpellation motion against Minister Palaitis was put down in parliament. This gives the opposition the opportunity to make life difficult for the coalition. My guess is that the legislature will not quite see it through to a full term.

Lithuania – Presidential veto

This post continues a theme that started last week, namely vetoes by relatively weak presidents. Last week, I posted about Bulgaria and Slovakia. Now, it is the turn of Lithuania.

In June, President Dalia Grybauskaitė delivered a State of the Nation speech to the Lithuanian parliament. The address is available in English here. In the speech, she notes that she vetoed 12 laws passed by parliament in the previous year. She states that they included the Law on Land, the Law on Land Reform, and the Law on Forests. She also vetoed the Citizenship Law and a law that lowered the tax on alcohol. This seems to me like a very high figure. I do not have figures for earlier years, but certainly President Grybauskaitė is being quite active.

In addition, it seems that she is not only active in vetoing legislation, she is also active in proposing amendments. The Lithuania Tribune is reporting that she is currently threatening to veto the budget. However, she has proposed amendments to the Heat Sector and Competition bill and is exhorting parliament to pass them, with the implicit threat that she will veto the bill if it does not.

Technically, President Grybauskaitė is non-partisan. Her activity is reminiscent of a president during a period cohabitation.

Lithuania – Municipal elections

In Lithuania, municipal elections were held on 27 February.

The Lithuania Tribune is reporting the following results:

Social Democrat party 328 mandates
Conservative party (TS) 249 mandates
Labour party 165 mandates
Order and Justice party 155 mandates
Lithuanian Peasants Popular Union 147 mandates
Liberal and Centre Union 126 mandates
Liberal Movement 98
New Union (Social Liberals) 52
The coalition of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania and Lithuanian Russian Union received 61 mandates
The Lithuanian Centre Party won 19 mandates
The Christian Party got 15 mandates
Arturas Zuokas and Vilnius Coalition 12 mandates

The Lithuania Electoral Commission provides a nice graphic of the 2007 results here. It shows the Social Democrat party with 302 seats and the Conservatives with 256 seats. So, relative to the previous election, the elections can be seen as a good result for the opposition Social Democrats. However, they might have been hoping for a better showing. Moreover, while the main government party, the TS, lost seats, it might have been expected to do worse.

The main shifts came with the smaller parties. The Labour party did well, up from 111 seats in 2007. By contrast the Liberal and Centre Union was down from 182 seats. Equally, though the party labels are a little difficult to follow, the Liberal party also seems to have registered a big decline.

So, overall, it seems to have been a stalemate for the two main parties. However, the government parties as a whole suffered a big drop in seats.

Lithuania – President/PM relations

I am away at a conference, so posting may be sporadic until Tuesday.

In the meantime, I thought that I would draw attention to an informative article in Lithuania Tribune about presidential/prime ministerial relations there. It is called ‘The President and the Prime Minister are now on the same team?’.

Recall that President Dalia Grybauskaitė is officially an independent. The PM, Andrius Kubilius, is from the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats.

If you go to the Lithuania Tribune homepage and type Grybauskaitė in the ‘search’ box, then it also reveals various articles about the president. The general tone is that she has been quite vocal in her criticisms.

The Lithuanian president is not a figurehead, like the Slovenian president, but the office does not have great powers, scoring 4/9 in the Siaroff scale. So, the president’s activism of sorts is interesting.