Lithuania

Free
91
100
PR Political Rights 38 40
CL Civil Liberties 53 60
Last Year's Score & Status
91 100 Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Lithuania is a democracy in which political rights and civil liberties are generally respected. Corruption and socioeconomic inequality are issues that often arouse public dissatisfaction with the government, political parties, and other institutions. Women, LGBT+ people, members of the Romany minority group, and some other groups experience degrees of discrimination, and are underrepresented in politics.

header2 Key Developments in 2019

  • Local elections and elections to the European Parliament were held in March and May, respectively. In both polls, opposition parties—the Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS–LKD) and the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP)—outperformed the governing Farmers and Greens Union (LVŽS). In the capital and other major cities, most voters supported nonpartisan mayoral candidates.
  • Gitanas Nausėda, a centrist nonpartisan candidate who ran on calls for an inclusive welfare state, won May’s presidential election. The year’s polls were all considered free and fair.
  • After the presidential election, the LVŽS initiated negotiations to expand its shrinking coalition with the Lithuanian Social Democratic Labor Party (LSDLP). Eventually, in June, two other parties—Order and Justice (TT) and the Lithuanian Poles Electoral Action (LLRA)—joined the coalition, with a final agreement signed in July. That month, Saulius Skvernelis was reappointed as prime minister. The parliamentary majority, however, remained shaky due to internal disputes and splits.
  • In February, 26 people were detained and charged with bribery and abuse of public duties. Among them were eight senior judges, including a member of the Supreme Court, and five lawyers. While the judicial process is ongoing, five of the eight judges were dismissed.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

The president, who is chief of state and whose main competencies lie in foreign affairs, is directly elected to up to two five-year terms. The prime minister, who as a head of government is the central executive authority, is appointed by the president with the approval of Parliament.

Centrist non-partisan candidate Gitanas Nausėda was elected in May 2019 as the new president of the country after his predecessor, Dalia Grybauskaitė, completed her second term of office. The prime minister, Saulius Skvernelis, was appointed after the parliamentary elections in October 2016 and reappointed in July 2019, after that year’s presidential elections. Both the appointment of the prime minister and the election of the president took place in a free and fair manner.

Free and fair local elections were held in March 2019. The opposition TS–LKD and LSDP outperformed the governing LVŽS. In the capital and other major cities, however, most voters supported nonpartisan mayoral candidates.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

A unicameral, 141-seat Parliament (Seimas) consists of 71 members elected in single-mandate constituencies and 70 chosen by proportional representation, all for four-year terms. The most recent parliamentary elections took place in October 2016. The elections were somewhat unexpectedly won by the centrist-populist LVŽS, which took 56 seats, leaving behind the center-right TS–LKD, which took 31 seats, and the center-left incumbent LSDP, which took 17 seats.

The elections were considered free and fair. While relatively few irregularities were reported, there was one notable case of vote buying. The election commission subsequently stripped a culprit lawmaker of his parliamentary mandate in connection with the events.

In 2018, 12 LSDP lawmakers split from the party and formed the new LSDLP, which joined the governing coalition; the remaining 7 LSDP members joined the opposition.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 4.004 4.004

The legislative framework for conducting elections is clear and detailed, and is generally well implemented. The Central Electoral Commission (VRK) has historically been known to operate and adjudicate election-related complaints in a fair manner.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 4.004 4.004

Lithuania’s political parties generally operate freely. Citizens of other European Union (EU) member states are eligible to become members of Lithuanian political parties, but cannot found them.

Small parties and some civic organizations argue that the minimum number of members for political parties (2,000) is burdensome, and hampers the creation of new parties and maintenance of small ones. Party-financing rules generally favor the main parliamentary forces. Public election committees—a way for groups of citizens to run for municipal councils without joining or establishing a political party—have been enabled since 2010, although they are not permitted for legislative elections.

European Parliament elections were held in May. Opposition parties, the TS-LKD and the Lithuanian LSDP, outperformed the governing LVŽS.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4.004 4.004

Lithuanian politics are dynamic, and opposition parties usually come to power after every parliamentary election.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 4.004 4.004

Sporadic cases of vote buying during national elections have been observed, and clientelism can influence politics at the local level. However, people are generally free to exercise their political choices without undue influence or interference.

The State Security Department (VSD) has issued numerous warnings about efforts by Russia to influence politics, including through its energy policies and by influencing the country’s ethnic minorities.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 4.004 4.004

There are no formal restrictions on the participation of women, LGBT+ people, and of members of ethnic, religious, and other minority groups in Lithuanian politics. Women and women’s interests are underrepresented in politics, though some senior political positions are held by women. In 2016, women won 21 percent of parliamentary seats. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working toward greater representation of women in politics and business, and combating violence against women, are active in the political sphere.

After the 2017 death of Rokas Žilinskas, a gay man and a member of parliament, there are no openly LGBT+ people in senior political positions. Most MPs back the position of the Catholic Church and espouse socially conservative attitudes towards expanding the rights LGBT+ people.

In the 2016 parliamentary elections, for the second consecutive time, the Lithuanian Poles Electoral Action (LLRA), representing the Polish minority, overcame the 5 percent electoral threshold.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 4.004 4.004

Lithuania’s freely elected lawmakers are seated according to schedule and can design and implement policies. However, regularly erupting corruption scandals raise concerns about the influence of large businesses on politics. In June 2018, Parliament’s Committee on National Security and Defense presented the findings of an investigation which concluded that a number of large corporations have advanced their interests by influencing the policy positions of members of parliament and other politicians through media pressure, bribes, and blackmail.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 3.003 4.004

Corruption remains an issue in Lithuania, and certain sectors, including health care and construction, are perceived as prone to corruption. While anticorruption bodies are active, there are usually considerable delays in the investigation of political corruption cases. In 2016, the leaders of three political parties were implicated in separate bribery scandals involving illicit deals with Lithuanian businesses. In August 2018, in response to two of the scandals, the corruption trial of the Labor Party, the Liberal Movement, three of the parties’ current and former leaders, and the former vice president of investment management company MG Baltic, commenced; it was still ongoing at the end of 2019.

The protection of whistleblowers and journalists who report on corruption cases is guaranteed, though these protections are upheld inconsistently at local levels.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 3.003 4.004

Lithuanian law grants the public the right to request information, and the government generally complies with information requests. However, the operations of state companies remain somewhat opaque, and prone to financial misconduct. Improvements to make public procurement fairer and more open to public scrutiny have been limited. In the last few years, politicians’ attempts to reduce the scope of accessible public information concerning themselves have increased.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 4.004 4.004

The government generally respects freedoms of speech and the press. While the media market is vibrant, some owners of media outlets attempt to use their position to influence political processes. Local outlets are usually financially dependent on the local government.

Because of vaguely worded legislation on limiting information that “abases family values,” there have been cases of pressure on both public and private media to restrict provision of information on LGBT+ rights.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4.004 4.004

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by law and largely upheld in practice. However, nine so-called traditional religious communities, and particularly the Roman Catholic Church, enjoy certain government benefits, including annual subsidies that are not granted to other groups. Despite the presence of a Muslim community, Vilnius remained without a mosque in 2019.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4.004 4.004

Academic freedom is respected, and the educational system is generally free from political influence.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 4.004 4.004

Private discussion is generally robust and unrestricted. However, in the wake of concerns about Russia’s aggressive foreign policy, individuals who criticize the government’s foreign policy stances can face pressure.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 4.004 4.004

Freedom of assembly is generally respected.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 4.004 4.004

NGOs may register without facing serious obstacles, and operate without restrictions.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 3.003 4.004

Workers may form and join trade unions and engage in collective bargaining, though there have been reports of employees being punished for attempting to organize. Since 2000, with few rare exceptions, only teachers’ trade unions organize strikes.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 3.003 4.004

Businesspeople and politicians closely linked with business interests exert pressure on the judiciary. Although public confidence in courts had been steadily improving since 2010, a judicial corruption scandal in February 2019 significantly damaged it. That month, 26 people, including 8 senior judges (one of them a member of the Supreme Court) and 5 lawyers, were detained and charged with bribery and abuse of public duties. Five of the eight judges were subsequently dismissed.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 3.003 4.004

Defendants generally enjoy the presumption of innocence and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, but detained suspects are not always granted timely access to an attorney. Pretrial detention rates are high, even though the law states that pretrial detention should only be employed in exceptional circumstances. A former member of parliament, Algirdas Paleckis, who was charged with spying for Russia, has been in custody without trial since October 2018.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 3.003 4.004

Police abuse of detainees is a lingering issue. Although the government took measures to improve the situation, conditions at some prisons are substandard, violence among prisoners remains a problem, and physical abuse of prisoners by correctional officers persists. Despite a reduction in homicides in recent years, Lithuania still had the highest homicide rate in the EU according to data from Eurostat, the EU’s statistics agency, for 2017.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 3.003 4.004

Public signs must be written only in Lithuanian, even in areas predominantly inhabited by people who speak different languages. The Romany population experiences widespread societal discrimination. Members of the LGBT+ community face discrimination.

Men and women enjoy the same legal rights, though women generally earn less than men per hour worked.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 4.004 4.004

Lithuanian residents may travel freely within the country and internationally.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 4.004 4.004

Successive Lithuanian administrations have worked to maintain a well-regulated market economy, and economic freedoms are generally ensured.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 3.003 4.004

Domestic violence remains a problem; statistics released by Lithuanian police in November 2019 indicate that it is the second most reported crime, with burglary first. The perception that women are to blame for gender-based violence against them persists among many.

Lithuania’s constitution defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and same-sex partnership is not legally established. However, in January 2019, the Constitutional Court ruled that Lithuania must grant residence permits for foreigners in same-sex marriages or registered partnerships with Lithuanian citizens that took place abroad. Legal regulations that would allow gender-confirmation surgery and related procedures are not in place.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 3.003 4.004

Regional economic disparities remain acute. Trafficking of adults and children for the purposes of forced labor or sex work occurs in Lithuania. The government actively works to prosecute traffickers, and provides aid to victims in conjunction with NGOs.

On Lithuania

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  • Global Freedom Score

    91 100 free