Lithuania is a democracy in which political rights and civil liberties are generally respected. Chronic problems including corruption and socioeconomic inequality often arouse public dissatisfaction with the government, political parties, and other institutions. Women, LGBT+ people, members of the Romany minority, and some other groups experience varying degrees of discrimination and underrepresentation in politics.
- In July, Lithuanian authorities initiated a policy of asylum denial and pushback against migrants and refugees attempting to cross the border with Belarus; the Belarusian government had facilitated the passage of migrants to the borders of several European Union (EU) member states in response to sanctions against Minsk. By year’s end, 8,000 people were prevented from entering Lithuania, while those who did enter the country faced significant restrictions.
- Several large protests over the government’s COVID-19 policy were held in August, September, and November. Police and protesters clashed during the August rally in Vilnius, with officers using force to keep protesters away from the parliament building.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The president, whose main competencies as head of state pertain to foreign affairs, is directly elected for up to two five-year terms. The prime minister, who as head of government holds most executive authority, is appointed by the president with the approval of the Seimas (parliament). Recent executive elections have met democratic standards.
Centrist nonpartisan candidate Gitanas Nausėda was elected president in 2019 after his predecessor, Dalia Grybauskaitė, completed her second term of office. Nausėda took 66 percent of the vote in a runoff, defeating Ingrida Šimonytė, an independent lawmaker backed by the Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD), who took 33 percent. Šimonytė was appointed prime minister following the October 2020 parliamentary elections, taking office that December.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The unicameral, 141-seat Seimas includes 71 members elected in single-mandate constituencies and 70 chosen by proportional representation, all for four-year terms.
In the October 2020 elections, the center-right TS-LKD won 50 seats, while the then incumbent centrist-populist Farmers and Greens Union (LVŽS) won 32. Two socially liberal and probusiness parties, the Liberal Movement and the Freedom Party, respectively won 13 and 11 seats; they entered a coalition with the TS-LKD that November.
The center-left Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) won 13, while the centrist-populist Labor Party won 10. Four other parties and independent candidates won the remaining seats.
|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 consistent with democratic standards and generally well implemented. The Central Electoral Commission has typically operated and adjudicated election-related complaints in a fair manner.
In August 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled that the 2018 Law on Referendum was passed in an unconstitutional manner but left the law in place through July 2021. A new referendum bill passed its first reading in June 2021 and remained under parliamentary consideration as of September.
In April 2021, the Constitutional Court ruled that direct mayoral elections, which were introduced in 2015, contradicted the constitution. Its ruling will take effect in May 2023.
|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|
Political parties generally operate freely. Citizens of other EU member states are eligible to join Lithuanian political parties but cannot found them.
The minimum number of members for political parties, which stands at 2,000, somewhat restricts the creation of new parties and the maintenance of small ones. Public funding rules generally favor the main parliamentary forces, as private financing of political organizations is tightly restricted. State subsidies are calculated according to electoral results and represent the main source of revenue for parties. Public election committees—a way for groups of citizens to run for municipal councils without joining or establishing a political party—have been an option since 2010, though they are not permitted for parliamentary elections.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||4.004 4.004|
Regular transfers of power between rival parties after elections have been the norm since the early 1990s, with left- and right-leaning coalitions alternating in government. Parties in opposition retain a significant presence in the Seimas.
|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, voters and candidates are generally free to exercise their political autonomy without undue influence or interference.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, 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 political participation of women, LGBT+ people, or members of ethnic, religious, and other minority groups. Women and women’s interests remain underrepresented in politics, though women hold 28.4 percent of Seimas seats as of December 2021. Moreover, the three leaders of the governing coalition are women, including Prime Minister Šimonytė and Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, who serves as Seimas speaker and Liberal Movement leader. Šimonytė’s cabinet approached gender balance, with women holding six of the 14 ministerial posts.
Political parties that are supportive of LGBT+ rights increased their parliamentary representation in 2020. The Freedom Party, founded in 2019, campaigned for marriage equality and had an openly gay candidate among its leaders; it won 9 percent of the national vote.
The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania–Christian Families Alliance, which represents members of the ethnic Polish minority, failed to clear the 5 percent vote threshold for proportional-representation seats in 2020 but won three seats in single-mandate districts.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||4.004 4.004|
The country’s elected officials are able to determine and implement government policies without improper interference from unelected or foreign entities. However, corruption scandals have periodically raised concerns about the influence of major businesses on governance.
|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 malfeasance. While anticorruption bodies are active, there are usually considerable delays in the investigation and prosecution of political corruption cases.
The protection of whistleblowers and journalists who report on corruption cases is legally guaranteed, though such safeguards are upheld inconsistently at the local level.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||3.003 4.004|
Lithuanian law grants the public the right to access official information, and the government generally complies with such requests. However, the operations of state-owned enterprises (SOEs)—especially municipal SOEs—are somewhat opaque and prone to financial misconduct.
In a July 2021 report, the European Commission lauded new transparency rules for lobbying activities as well as improvements in the country’s public procurement framework.
|Are there free and independent media?||3.003 4.004|
The government generally respects freedom of the press, and the media market is vibrant. However, the increasing concentration of media ownership in the hands of a small number of companies raises the risk of editorial interference by powerful political and business interests. Journalists often engage in self-censorship when reporting on certain large companies. Journalists face online harassment and abuse. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic left the media more vulnerable to undue influence and affected the job security of journalists.
Because of a vaguely worded law restricting the dissemination of information that “abases family values,” media outlets have faced pressure to limit coverage of LGBT+ issues.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||4.004 4.004|
Freedom of religion is legally guaranteed 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.
|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.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||4.004 4.004|
The freedoms of personal expression and private discussion are generally robust and unrestricted. However, due to concerns about the Russian government’s foreign policy, individuals who criticize government stances on security-related issues—including energy policy, military spending, conscription, and sanctions against authoritarian regimes—can face institutional scrutiny and societal marginalization.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||4.004 4.004|
Freedom of assembly is generally respected. Authorities restricted the size of gatherings and banned sports and cultural events for part of 2021 due to COVID-19. Restrictions on gatherings were loosened when a lockdown ended in July.
An LGBT+ pride parade took place in Kaunas in September 2021, though local authorities initially denied a permit in June; the Supreme Administrative Court allowed the parade to proceed in a final ruling in early September.
Several large protests over the government’s COVID-19 policy were held in August, September, and November 2021. Police and protesters clashed during the August rally in Vilnius, with officers using force to keep protesters away from the Seimas building.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||4.004 4.004|
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are able to register without facing serious obstacles, and they generally operate without undue restrictions in practice.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||3.003 4.004|
Workers have the right to form and join trade unions and engage in collective bargaining, though there have been reports of employees being punished for attempting to organize. Less than 10 percent of workers are trade union members, and the share of workers covered by collective agreements is similarly low. Changes to the labor code in 2017 required employers with at least 20 workers to initiate the election of a work council to represent employees’ interests, if a union was not already established, though only unions can engage in collective bargaining. Strikes are relatively uncommon due to strict regulations, lack of strike funds, and the absence of a culture of industrial action.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||3.003 4.004|
Although public confidence in the courts has been steadily improving in recent years, judicial corruption remains a significant concern. An extensive bribery scandal in 2019 eventually led to criminal charges against 12 senior judges, including a member of the Supreme Court. All 12 had been dismissed by the end of 2021.
|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. The law states that pretrial detention should only be employed in exceptional circumstances, and its use has declined in recent years.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||3.003 4.004|
The population is largely free from major threats to physical security, and the homicide rate has declined in recent years, though it remains one of the highest in the EU.
Although the government has taken 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.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||2.002 4.004|
The constitution guarantees equality before the law and forbids discrimination based on gender, race, language, and other categories. The laws provide similar protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, though gender identity is not addressed. In practice, women generally earn less than men per hour worked, and both LGBT+ people and Roma experience societal discrimination. Ethnic Poles and members of other national minority groups have objected to limits on the use of their languages; public signs must be written only in Lithuanian, even in areas predominantly inhabited by people who speak different languages.
Authorities in Belarus allowed an increased number of migrants and refugees to enter their country as 2021 progressed. Minsk then facilitated their passage to the borders of EU member states including Lithuania. The Lithuanian government declared a state of emergency in July, as migrants began appearing at the border. Lithuanian authorities refused entry to many individuals, pushing them back to border control points; between August and December, border guards stopped over 8,000 people from entering the country. Those who were sent to a camp in Rūdninkai faced poor physical conditions; the government closed that camp by September and moved residents to a former correctional facility.
The Seimas also legislated to restrict the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. In July and August 2021, it passed laws restricting the rights of migrants and allowing the government to deny asylum applications at the border in some circumstances; in November, the Migration Department reported only 1 percent of asylum applications had been approved. In late December, the Seimas legislated to restrict the movement of migrants who arrived during a state of emergency.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because Lithuanian authorities initiated a pushback policy against people attempting to cross the border with Belarus, denied nearly all requests for asylum, and restricted the movement of migrants within the country.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?||4.004 4.004|
Residents of Lithuania may leave the country and travel internally without significant obstacles.
Pandemic-related movement restrictions are generally considered proportionate. In May 2021, the government introduced an electronic health pass for those who had been vaccinated against COVID-19 or recently tested negative. In September, the government restricted unvaccinated individuals from visiting stores selling nonessential goods and from attending indoor events.
|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 governments have worked to maintain a well-regulated market economy, and the legal framework generally protects property rights and the freedom to operate private businesses.
|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|
Individual freedom regarding personal status matters such as marriage and divorce is generally upheld, but marriage is constitutionally defined as a union between a man and a woman. Same-sex partnerships are not legally recognized; a bill to allow same-sex civil unions did not receive sufficient support in a May 2021 Seimas vote.
Domestic violence remains a problem; it is one of the country’s most reported crimes, but the rates of investigation and prosecution remain inadequate. A majority of cases reported to police in 2020 involved violence against women.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||3.003 4.004|
Legal protections against exploitative working conditions exist and are enforced in practice. However, the incidence rate for fatal workplace accidents in Lithuania is nearly twice the EU average according to Eurostat data dating back to 2018. Foreign workers in sectors such as construction and transportation are vulnerable to labor trafficking. Lithuanian women and children have been exploited for sex trafficking.
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