Consolidated Democracy
DEMOCRACY-PERCENTAGE Democracy Percentage 77.38 100
DEMOCRACY-SCORE Democracy Score 5.64 7
Last Year's Democracy Percentage & Status
78 100 Consolidated Democracy
The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 1 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year. The Democracy Percentage, introduced in 2020, is a translation of the Democracy Score to the 0-100 scale, where 0 equals least democratic and 100 equals most democratic. See the methodology.

header1 Score changes in 2022

  • Judicial Framework and Independence rating declined from 6.00 to 5.75 due to amendments curtailing migrants’ asylum and movement rights passed by the parliament in response to the migration crisis orchestrated by the Belarusian government.
  • As a result, Lithuania’s Democracy Score decreased from 5.68 to 5.64.

header2 Executive Summary

The year 2021 brought unfamiliar challenges to Lithuanian political elites, state institutions, and the general society. Still dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, the state was forced to also shoulder a migration crisis after the unprecedented wave of illegal immigration through Belarus when its border was opened by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in June. Over the course of the year, the latent cleavage between liberal and conservative values rose sharply (potentially spurred by socioculturally liberal policy initiatives), dividing the general public, politicians, and parties, and even leading to social unrest. Internationally, Lithuania’s democracy-promoting, values-based foreign policy brought visible confrontations with Belarus1 and China.2 All of these challenges affected the country’s societal, political, and economic processes and, although the democracy remained strong, brought shocks to the implementation of democratic governance practices.

During much of the year, Lithuania ranked above the European Union (EU) average in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita,3 and its vaccination per capita rates were at the EU average, leading Central and Eastern Europe.4 In the national public discourse, the government’s pandemic management was constantly criticized, mainly for the pace of vaccination and restrictions introduced.5 Considerable criticism came from President Gitanas Nausėda,6 which both reflected and increased his tensions with the governing majority.

The COVID-19 crisis management also highlighted the government’s public communications problems, starting with a lackluster and scandal-ridden information campaign for mass vaccination.7 Various analysts assessed the government’s rhetoric as unempathetic, weak, and divisive.8 This poor performance revived the long-standing criticism of the largest governing coalition party, Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats, of failing to pay attention to the concerns of ordinary people, particularly in the regions. Similarly, while expressing an intention to consult with social partners,9 such efforts were unsuccessful or nonexistent.10 In general, the pandemic crisis increased tensions between government institutions, highlighting and exacerbating established trends, especially the sense of government elites being out of touch with citizens.

By contrast, in the migration crisis, the government acted quickly, sought solutions, and found international support.11 Initially, this left little room for critique from the opposition. The crisis itself led to better coordination of inter-institutional cooperation—but it also highlighted gaps in communication between national and local leadership and exposed the government’s dominant hierarchical approach. By recognizing the migration crisis as a hybrid attack,12 it was perceived primarily and almost unanimously in the country as a security issue, which pushed the issue of migrants’ human rights to the background of the public discourse. Yet, despite logistical constraints and lack of experience with the unprecedented crisis, some efforts were made to address the situation and migrants’ needs, and civil society organizations (CSOs) and local self-governments played important roles in this regard. Meanwhile, the media’s ability to collect information firsthand was restricted in some areas.

Already difficult, these two national crises fomented a fierce clash over Lithuania’s liberal-conservative values. This latent societal cleavage was not fully exploited before the parliamentary elections in 2020,13 but the focus of the newly elected Freedom Party (LP) on socioculturally liberal issues and legislative initiatives exploded into culture wars in 2021. These divided or at least brought disunity to public and political elites, state institutions, municipalities, CSOs, and even the church.14 The Vilnius and Kaunas municipalities also got involved by selectively issuing permissions for public rallies along liberal and conservative lines, respectively.

Values-based discontent merged with antigovernment sentiments over its crisis management (of the pandemic, primarily) and spurred a wave of demonstrations, rallies, and protests, the largest coordinated by the Lithuanian Family Movement (LŠS), a new right-wing formation.15 In August, one of these demonstrations devolved into rioting on a scale unseen in the country in over a decade. Thus Lithuania ended the year politically opposed internally and in a state of reciprocal public anger.16

Amid this ongoing societal fragmentation, public trust in the media fell to historic lows while the importance of social media as a source of information rose—disseminators of disinformation exploited both trends. During the year’s protests, traditional media encountered an unfamiliar level of hostility from crowds.

These sharp societal divisions, both values- and crisis-based, also highlighted Lithuania’s old issue of public tolerance for intolerance,17 a recurring theme during the year in a variety of contexts. In January, a parliamentarian’s controversial speech on the Holocaust received international condemnation.18 Reacting to the speech, the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community criticized broader society and the media for their relative silence on the matter.19 Indeed, Lithuanians have been shown to be fairly tolerant of the hatred expressed by others, and even against themselves.20 The liberal-conservative confrontation of values and heightened visibility of “others” due to the migrant crisis increased the presence of sharp and offensive language in the public sphere. Meanwhile, LP’s legislative amendments tightening penalties for hate speech were withdrawn in the Seimas (Lithuania’s parliament) on objections that they would restrict freedom of expression.

In the face of these challenges and surfacing hostility, politicians willingly chose sides or were forced to do so. Some less-popular, right-wing, or populist politicians saw an opportunity and openly expressed support for the traditionalists’ antigovernment protests.21 Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Famers and Greens Union (LVŽS), possibly pushed by its confrontation with governing TS-LKD, shifted its support and tried to cling to the previously confronted President Nausėda based on a common, more conservative approach. However, it was the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania (LSDP), with its new chair elected in May, that gained the most from the situation: publicly criticizing the government’s decisions yet remaining on the sidelines of the main confrontation, LSDP ultimately topped the year’s popularity ratings.

In an atmosphere of rising public discontent and confrontation, the nonpartisan President Nausėda started the year by claiming the role of arbitrator, attempting to maneuver between the different social and political positions.22 However, later in the year, although still stressing the importance of dialogue, his public stance gradually drifted toward the attitudes of the conservative camp,23 thus drawing criticism for chasing ratings, trying to please the majority, and manifestations of populism.24 It is likely that the other causes of discord between the presidency and the governing coalition pushed Nausėda in this direction as well, searching for political backing in the society.25 However, this drift angered the ruling coalition partners. Lithuania’s state of emergency, declared in November (the first time since regaining independence in 1990), united the president and the government for only a short time,26 and with the intensified confrontation, the president’s power position in the semi-presidential system had weakened by year’s end. Meanwhile, the governing majority in the Seimas and the government itself held firmly together.27 Even the government’s biggest scandal, which erupted in December over the transit of Belaruskali fertilizers through Lithuania despite sanctions on the Belarussian company,28 ended with threats of resignations (from the ministers of Foreign Affairs and Transport and Communications, as well as hints of a full government withdrawal) yet with no real cabinet changes.29 The opposition-initiated interpellation to the Health minister was also unsuccessful.30 However, the repeated dismissal of LP’s proposals in the parliament put the party in a difficult position: as a governing coalition partner yet still unable to implement its program, even with compromise solutions, it could become a challenge to the coalition’s stability.31

In addition to crisis management and reflecting the sociopolitical cleavages at the local level, municipalities continued to seek more independence, especially financial. Although the new government had expressed an intention to strengthen local governance and independence, no real changes had materialized by year’s end. The issue of Lithuania’s relatively low financing for courts also remained unresolved. However, the positive trends in improved judicial efficacy, speed, and digitalization, as well as the decrease in the prison population, continued. Improvements to anticorruption legislation were adopted, and changes from previous years brought their first positive results, as the issue of corruption continued to loom large in public perceptions and the country’s ongoing notorious cases.

header3 At a Glance

In Lithuania, national governance is democratic and stable with a working system of checks and balances. However, institutions still lack greater openness and cooperation with civil society in decision-making. Elections are free and fair, yet their competitiveness is hampered at the local level in some municipalities. Civil society is independent though not very active, and most CSOs face funding difficulties. Generally, the media operate freely, but there is occasional pressure from politicians and business interests, especially at the local level. Although local self-governments operate freely, the power hierarchy is highly centralized and municipalities are constantly demanding more self-sufficiency, especially financial. Equality before the law is ensured by the country’s effective judiciary. Yet insufficient funding, corruption, and public distrust in courts remain issues. Even though the population’s direct experience with bribe-giving is decreasing, the perception of corruption in some institutions—namely, healthcare, courts, and the Seimas—remains high, confirmed by scandalous cases of high-level corruption, which often involve lengthy court proceedings that are ultimately overturned.

National Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the democratic character of the governmental system; and the independence, effectiveness, and accountability of the legislative and executive branches. 5.506 7.007
  • Two extraordinary crises—COVID-19 and migration—as well as the nation’s clash over liberal-conservative values dominated Lithuania’s political scene in 2021. These crises kept the power center of the country’s semi-presidential system constantly gravitating towards the government—where decisions were prepared, discussed, and adopted—with Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė and the ministers of Health, Interior, and Foreign Affairs among the most visible politicians in the media.1 President Gitanas Nausėda and the Seimas (Lithuania’s parliament) nevertheless grappled for their own constitutional shares of power2 and public attention, and for most of the year all three lacked unity, even in dealing with the crises.3
  • The confrontation between President Nausėda and the governing coalition (primarily Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats) evolved over the year. Starting with the president’s criticism of the Health Minister for “improper” COVID-19 management,4 the conflict escalated as TS-LKD and Nausėda disagreed over who should represent Lithuania in the European Council, the prime minister or the president. Since Lithuanian law does not provide a clear answer,5 attempts at persuasion6 descended into pronouncements about passing a corresponding law7 and a counter declaration about vetoing such a law.8 Despite assertions from both sides that the relationship was constructive,9 the president and prime minister abandoned the practice of weekly meetings.10 And while Constitutional Court (KT) and Supreme Court (LAT) appointments that require agreement from both president and the parliament finally took place11 (vacant for over a year due to Nausėda’s disagreements with the former governing majority12 ), other important positions, like ambassador to the European Union (EU), remained vacant throughout the year.13 In the fall, this tension evolved into harsh criticisms and calls for the Health Minister’s resignation,14 several rejected presidential vetoes in the parliament,15 and even mutual public accusations of intentionally obstructing the COVID-19 vaccination program.16
  • Immediately after the 2020 parliamentary elections, the fraught relationship between the main political rivals—Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats and Farmers and Greens Union (LVŽS)—seemed to mirror the hostile relationships of the previous term.17 In 2021, this confrontation persisted yet somewhat deescalated, revolving more around the parties’ differing stances on specific issues.18 In this sense, LVŽS, by creating a one-party “shadow cabinet” in February19 and regularly announcing proposals on ongoing affairs, became very active.20 In July, when friction between President Nausėda and TS-LKD sharpened, LŽVS withheld its own prior disagreements with the president and announced itself as Nausėda’s buttress in the Seimas.21 With a new leader elected in May, the regular critic LSDP (Social Democratic Party of Lithuania) became more visible as well and intensified a second line of opposition.22
  • The formation of a broader parliamentary opposition was unsuccessful. The coalition of LVŽS and DP (Labor Party) lacked the second-largest oppositional party, LSDP,23 and lasted only until September when former prime minister Saulius Skvernelis and others separated from LVŽS and with various other parliamentarians formed the new faction Demokratai–vardan Lietuvos (Democrats–for Lithuania).24 This move significantly weakened LVŽS,25 which lost several of its most popular figures26 and (after Skvernelis announced the new party in October27 ) gained a competitor.28 On the other hand, analysts viewed this separation as LVŽS’s “ideological purification.”29
  • Beyond the dominant crisis-management questions, there were other issues on the year’s political agenda, such as regulations with the EU Green Deal, taxes, improving the legislative process, social exclusion, liberalization of reimbursable medical prescriptions, establishment of the Intelligence Ombudsman, and, finally, signing an education agreement among the main parliamentary parties.30 However, considering its direct and indirect consequences, the package of socioculturally liberal proposals had the greatest impact, especially concerning the rights of LGBT+ persons.31 This effort became a critical dividing line between the more liberal and more conservative parties, the Freedom Party (LP) on one side and LVŽS, LLRA-KŠS on the other, respectively. The legislative focus also sharpened the confrontation between the ruling majority and President Nausėda,32 highlighted latent divisions in the society,33 and divided colleagues in some parties (with disunity among members of LSDP, TS-LKD, LVŽS, and even LRLS).34 These legislative proposals, mixed with socially conservative attitudes and discontent over the management of COVID-19, led to civil organizing,35 large protests,36 and even riots in August.37 However, real legislative changes related to these issues failed to materialize in 2021.
Electoral Process 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines national executive and legislative elections, the electoral framework, the functioning of multiparty systems, and popular participation in the political process. 6.256 7.007
  • In 2021, Lithuania saw the effect on its electoral process of two hasty legislative outcomes from previous terms.1 In July 2020, the Constitutional Court (KT) ruled that the procedure for adopting the law on referendum in 2018 was unconstitutional.2 However, in the yearlong grace period granted by the KT, the Seimas failed to adopt a new referendum law, leading to a vacuum of legal regulation on referendums. Citizens soon felt this uncertainty and tangible restriction on their rights: in July, the Central Electoral Commission (VRK) refused to issue signature collection sheets to an initiative for lowering the threshold to initiate referendums.3 The Supreme Administrative Court (LVAT) eventually revoked this VRK decision, although it took reviews by two panels of judges (first in July, then in October) due to the legal uncertainties and lawyers’ varying interpretations.4 Meanwhile, this legal gap continued through year’s end.5
  • In April, the KT struck down parts of two other laws changed in 2015 to introduce direct elections for mayors—the court found that such elections should be enshrined not in regular law but in the constitution itself. Similarly, the KT gave till May 2023 to amend the legal basis.6 Having broad public7 and political8 consensus to continue the practice of direct mayoral elections, the relevant constitutional amendments were proposed in April.9 However, the risk of reverting to the old order became plausible as sharp disagreements arose10 over how detailed to make the regulation (and, consequently, how easily it could be changed by future parliamentary majorities) as well as which functions should be designated for mayors (only executive or the current mixed executive-legislative).11 The issue of term limits for mayors, also raised by the KT, received scant attention in 2021.
  • Among other electoral topics,12 a special parliamentary group was formed in March to review electoral regulations.13 However, bold reforms proposed by the governing parties—such as changing the Seimas’s mixed electoral system to a proportional one, or changing presidential elections from direct to indirect—were met with harsh criticism from the oppositional LVŽS, which accused TS-LKD of designing laws to favor the party’s electoral interests.14 In May, these reform ideas were publicly abandoned.15
  • As a result of two mayors being elected to the parliament in 2020 and a third convicted for corruption and thus resigning in July 2021,16 elections for new mayors took place in Radviliškis in April and in Kelmė and Trakai in October.17 All three polls were considered free and fair,18 with low or moderate turnout.19 As in the 2020 parliamentary elections, the electoral laws and procedures were changed slightly to adapt to the pandemic situation.20
  • In 2021, the main political formations held elections for their party leadership. The chairs governing TS-LKD, LRLS, and LP,21 and the oppositional LVŽS and DP, were all reelected.22 Meanwhile, the newly elected LSDP leader Vilija Blinkevičiūtė became one of the country’s most popular politicians, even rivaling President Nausėda,23 and managed to raise the party’s image, with LSDP ending the year as Lithuania’s most popular party24 and returning to seriously compete with LVŽS in the ideological center-left.
  • 1By the way, constantly criticized by governing majority, which even declared a goal for itself to slow down legislature, paying attention to quality more than quantity. Review of first results: Indrė Jurčenkaitė, “Pasakyta/padaryta. Kaip uoliai naujasis Seimas vykdė pažadą: „kepė“ įstatymus ar mažino apsukas?” [Said/done. How diligently the new Seimas kept its promise: did it “baked” laws or reduced revolutions?],, 1 March 2021,…. OECD experts also drew attention to the intensity of Lithuanian legislation, which, according to them, creates the conditions for the occurrence of "legislative inflation". Presentation of key assessment and recommendations: Government strategic analysis center, “Diskusija Seime: kaip gerinti teisėkūros kokybę?” [Discussion in the Seimas: how to improve the quality of legislation?], Government strategic analysis center, 20 April 2021,…
  • 2Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, “The Law on Referendums in its new wording is contrary to the Constitution because it should have been adopted as a constitutional law”, Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, 30 July 2020,…
  •, “Konstituciją keisti panorusių Černiauskienės, Vaišvilos ir Jakilaičio ketinimas subliuško: koją pakišo įstatymas” [The intention of Černiauskienė, Vaišvila and Jakilaitis, who wanted to change the Constitution, collapsed: the law interrupted],, 1 July 2021,…
  • 4Margiris Meilutis, “Sprendimas dėl referendumo sukėlė abejonių: teismo pirmininkas atšaukia atostogas” [The decision on the referendum has raised doubts: the president of the court is canceling the leave],, 19 July 2021,…; Milena Andrukaitytė, BNS, „LVAT paliko galioti sprendimą referendumo byloje: parašų lapai turėjo būti išduoti“ [LVAT upheld the decision in the referendum case: signature sheets had to be issued],, 20 October 2021,…
  • 5Aistė Valiauskaitė, Edvardas Špokas, LRT TV news service,, “Šedbaras žada, kad Referendumo įstatymas Seimo salėje atsidurs kovą” [Šedbaras promises that the referendum law will be in the Seimas hall in March],, 4 November 2021,…
  • 6Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, “The legal regulation governing the elections and powers of municipal mayors is in conflict with the Constitution”, Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, 19 April 2021,…
  • 783 percent of the respondents prefer the direct elections of mayors. Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania, “Galimybė tiesiogiai rinkti merą paskatintų daugiau gyventojų dalyvauti rinkimuose” [The possibility of direct election of the mayor would encourage more people to vote], Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania, 4 May 2021,
  • 8Augustinas Šemelis, Kristina Karlonė, Rūta Lankininkaitė, LRT TV news service,, “Tiesioginių merų rinkimų reikalingumu niekas neabejoja, tačiau kaip turi atrodyti pataisos – nesutariama” [No one doubts the need for direct mayoral elections, but there is disagreement about what the amendments should look like],, 2 June 2021,…
  • 9Two alternative proposals were prepared, see: Jūratė Skėrytė, “Seime – dvi Konstitucijos pataisos dėl merų rinkimų, išsiskyrė požiūris į mero galias” [In Seimas - two amendments to the Constitution regarding the election of mayors, approaches to the powers of the mayor differed],, 28 April 2021,…
  • 10Between TS-LKD and LRLS on one side and most oppositional parties and LP on the other side.
  • 11Jūratė Skėrytė, “Seime – dvi Konstitucijos pataisos dėl merų rinkimų, išsiskyrė požiūris į mero galias” [In Seimas - two amendments to the Constitution regarding the election of mayors, approaches to the powers of the mayor differed],, 28 April 2021,…; BNS, “Savivaldybės teikia savo Konstitucijos pataisą dėl tiesioginių merų rinkimų” [Municipalities submit their amendment to the Constitution regarding the direct election of mayors],, 19 May 2021,…;, “LSDP piktinasi konservatoriais: atmestos pataisos – jų didesnio plano dalis” [The LSDP is outraged by the Conservatives: the rejected amendments are part of a larger plan],, 25 June 2021,…; also see footnote/endnote 76.
  • 12Like, for example, EU citizens gaining right to become party founders in Lithuania, first voting in the Parliament on the constitutional amendment allowing candidacy from 21 years or LLRA-KŠS proposal to lower the electoral threshold to Seimas by 1 percent for parties and by 2 percent for coalitions (from 5 to 4 and from 7 to 5 percent respectively). Milena Andrukaitytė, BNS, “Europos Sąjungos piliečiai galės tapti partijos steigėjais Lietuvoje” [Citizens of the European Union will be able to become the founders of the party in Lithuania],, 13 June 2021,…; Milena Andrukaitytė, BNS, “Seimas per pirmąjį balsavimą pritarė iniciatyvai leisti kandidatuoti nuo 21 metų” [In the first ballot, Seimas approved the initiative to allow candidacy from the age of 21],, 23 September, 2021,…; 15 min “„Antras dublis“: LLRA-KŠS bando pasigerinti sąlygas patekti į Seimą” [“Second shot”: LLRA-KŠS is trying to improve the conditions for entering Seimas], 24 February 2021,…
  • 13Stasys Gudavičius, “Rinkimų tvarkas bandys peržiūrėti per pusmetį” [Will try to review the electoral procedures within six months], Verslo žinios, 13 March 2021,…
  • 14Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union, “A. Norkienė: LVŽS frakcija traukiasi iš rinkimų darbo grupės Seime” [A. Norkienė: The LVŽS faction is withdrawing from the election working group in Seimas], Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union, 26 March 2021,…
  • 15ELTA, “Seimo rinkimų peržiūros grupė aptars siūlymus: vien dėl VRK darbo pokyčių sulaukė 45 puslapių rekomendacijų” [The Seimas Election Review Group will discuss the proposals: it received 45 pages of recommendations due to changes in the work of the VRK alone],, 14 May 2021,…. However, media leaked the information on other important changes in elections regulations still discussed: ELTA, Vilma Danauskienė,, “Rinkimų reformos ėmėsi iš peties: TS-LKD vienmandates naikins Laisvės partijos rankomis” [Election reforms take seriously: TS-LKD will eliminate single-members’ distrcits using hands of the Freedom Party],, 1 June 2021,…
  • 16BNS,, “VRK nutraukė dėl korupcijos nuteisto Kelmės rajono mero V. Andrulio įgaliojimus” [VRK terminated the mandate of V. Andrulis, the mayor of Kelmė district, who was convicted of corruption],, 1 July 2021,…
  • 17In Radviliškis, a candidate, delegated by the Lithuanian Green Party (LŽP) was elected with 59,24 percent of votes in the second round, in Kelmė – self-nominated candidate with 68,14 percent of votes in the second round, and in Trakai - LRLS delegated candidate with 52,39 percent of votes in the second round. The Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Lithuania, „2021 m. balandžio 11 d. nauji Radviliškio rajono savivaldybės tarybos nario – mero rinkimai (II turas). Balsavimo rezultatai“ [11 April 2021 new elections of the mayor – member of the municipality council of Radviliškis district (round II). Results of votes], The Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Lithuania, 29 April 2021,…; The Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Lithuania, „2021 m. spalio 24 d. nauji Kelmės ir Trakų rajonų savivaldybių tarybų narių – merų rinkimai (II turas). Kelmės rajono savivaldybė. Balsavimo rezultatai“ [24 October 2021 new elections of the mayors – members of the municipalities councils of Kelmė and Trakai districts (round II). Municipality of Kelmė district. Results of votes], The Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Lithuania, 28 October 2021,…; The Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Lithuania, „2021 m. spalio 24 d. nauji Kelmės ir Trakų rajonų savivaldybių tarybų narių – merų rinkimai (II turas). Trakų rajono savivaldybė. Balsavimo rezultatai“ [24 October 2021 new elections of the mayors – members of the municipalities councils of Kelmė and Trakai districts (round II). Municipality of Trakai district. Results of votes], The Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Lithuania, 28 October 2021,…
  • 18BNS,, “Kelmės rajono mero rinkimus laimėjo I. Petkevičius, Trakų rajone – A. Šatevičius” [I. Petkevičius won the mayoral elections in Kelmė district, A. Šatevičius - in Trakai district],, 25 October 2021,…; BNS, “Radviliškio rajono mero rinkimuose dalyvavo trečdalis rinkėjų” [One third of voters took part in the election of the mayor of Radviliškis district],, 25 April 2021,…
  • 19Turnout rate of 31,98 percent in Radviliškis, 29,47 percent in Kelmė and 39,78 percent in Trakai (all percentages in the second round). See footnote/endnote 85.
  • 20Introducing more advance-voting days, allowing for more voting booths, etc.…
  • 21Noteworthy, in the case of TS-LKD other 15 candidates withdrew from the competition at last-minute and the chairman was approved without the election actually taking place. BNS, “Gabrielius Landsbergis patvirtintas TS-LKD pirmininku” [Gabreilius Landsbergis was confirmed as the chairman of TS-LKD],, 26 September 2021,…; Augustas Stankevičius, “Liberalų sąjūdžio pirmininke perrinkta V.Čmilytė-Nielsen” [V.Čmilytė-Nielsen was re-elected as chairman of the Liberal Movement],, 18 September 2021,…; Gintaras Radauskas, “Be staigmenų ir konkurencijos: Laisvės partija pirmininke perrinko A.Armonaitę” [Without surprises and competition: the Freedom Party re-elected A.Armonaitė as its chairman],, 5 June 2021,…
  • 22Modesta Gaučaitė-Znutienė,, “Partijos pirmininku perrinktas Karbauskis apie „valstiečių“ ateitį: mus palaidoti gali tik rinkėjai” [Re-elected party chairman Karbauskis on the future of "peasants": only voters can bury us],, 11 December 2021,…; BNS, “Darbo partijos pirmininku perrinktas V. Uspaskichas” [V. Uspaskich re-elected as chairman of the Labor Party],, 14 November 2021,…
  • 23For example, in October Mrs Blinkevičiūtė collected 9,9 percent and President Nausėda 8,7 percent of respondents sympathies in open-ended question on the best representative of interests. This is big achievement, since Presidents usualy take this top place in Lithuania. In December, this was 9,4 percent for Mrs Blinkevičiūtė and 10,6 percent for President Nausėda. Vilmorus, “Populiariausi visuomenės veikėjai” [The most popular public figures], Vilmorus, 15-22 October 2021 and Vilmorus, 10-18 December 2021,,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01arti…
  • 24Ratings of 3 most popular parties in December: LSDP - 18,5 percent, TS-LKD - 10,1 percent, LVŽS – 7,9 percent. Vilmorus, „Partinės preferencijos“ [Party preferences], Vilmorus, 10-18 December 2021,,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01arti…
Civil Society 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses the capacity and financial sustainability of the civic sector; the political environment in which it operates; the functioning of trade unions; interest group participation;and the threat posed by antidemocratic extremist groups. 6.006 7.007
  • The increased mobilization of Lithuanian civil society during times of crisis was further visible in 2021. A survey conducted in early spring found that 78 percent of the population was involved in at least one civic activity in the last year, a significant contrast compared to the previous year’s 64 percent. For example, donations rose by 22 percent and involvement in local community activities rose by 13 percent as compared to the pre-pandemic years.1 Demand for civic sector assistance likewise increased—in addition to the continuing need for pandemic-related causes,2 the rising demands of the migration crisis called for increased contributions,3 and civil society organizations (CSOs) also reported the increasing amount of need among local populations.4 CSOs managed to provide assistance.5 However, they noted the tendency of state institutions to over-exploit this resource, underequipping volunteers or relying on them to “patch holes” in emergency mobilization for prolonged periods of time.6
  • Lithuania’s long-awaited nongovernmental organization (NGO) fund made its first call for applications in October.7 This fund, together with the Active Citizens Fund8 and other large ministry funds,9 were extremely important for CSOs since funding remains the sector’s most burdensome issue. Relocation of the National NGO Council to the government in July marked a symbolic recognition of the importance of CSOs.10 At the same time, CSOs remarked that parliamentary parties lack a commitment to include civil society in decision-making processes or do so in merely pro forma fashion.11
  • Though membership remains low12 (possibly a holdover from Soviet times13 ), trade unions were more visible and active in reacting to COVID-19 crisis management actions.14 In April, unions achieved an important victory in court when, for the first time, an employer was penalized for obstructing trade union activity.15
  • During the year, demonstrations over the shutdown of businesses during quarantine, against illegal migration, and in support of Belarus civil society took place.16 Unequivocally, the largest and most prominent protests in the public sphere were those confronting the government, its management of the pandemic, and the socioculturally liberal legislative initiatives (like ratification of the Istanbul Convention and a bill that would, among other provisions, allow for same-sex partnerships).  Beginning nationwide in May with “The Great Family Defense March,”17 waves of protests continued until the end of the year, and even turned into riots in August.18 Along the way, these protests came to incorporate actions against the temporary shelter of illegal migrants in smaller settlements and demonstrations against traditional media.19 Leaders of the protests were quite diverse, including former politicians, business persons, academics, celebrities, and a number of highly controversial agents.20 Initially organized by the right-wing Lithuanian Family Movement (LŠS), founded in June,21 splits in the protest leadership began to occur by September,22 with the LŠS dissociating from some of the protests—and all leaders denouncing any association with the August riots.23 Some counter-demonstrations were also held,24 which indicated sharp divisions in the general society, as well as sharpening conflicts in and between government institutions.25
  • Local municipalities escalated such disputes by selectively authorizing demonstrations: Vilnius municipality denied permission to demonstrate to LŠS, while Kaunas municipality denied the LGBT+ community permission to rally.26 In both cases, after heated public debates, courts protected Lithuanians’ democratic rights to publicly assemble and express their views.27
Independent Media 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines the current state of press freedom, including libel laws, harassment of journalists, and editorial independence; the operation of a financially viable and independent private press; and the functioning of the public media. 5.756 7.007
  • With a new governing majority in place, visible tensions between the government and the media were somewhat reduced in 2021 (for example, the media were finally granted access to data on official state registers in April1 ).2 However, not all expectations for a respectful relationship were met, with the journalistic community taking special offense when overlooked in the prioritizing of vaccinations.3 Both the pandemic and migration crises, as well as the harsh public collision between liberal and conservative values, brought further challenges with several government attempts to restrict information and regulate public discussions. In the summer months, journalists were banned from entering the border area.4 In March, the Interior Minister voiced a desire to punish individuals for spreading disinformation on the COVID-19 vaccine;5 and the Justice Minister introduced legislative amendments imposing administrative penalties for spreading hate speech, which were withdrawn after receiving public criticism.6
  • During the year, commercial media and some politicians questioned the national public broadcaster (LRT) over its financing model and spending. LRT was accused of abandoning its mission by starting to act as a commercial outlet and dominant player, restricting competition and distorting the market.7 The aim of LRT itself to limit the number of institutions with oversight sparked a wider debate about the mechanism of media self-regulation.8 Despite agreeing on the need to review this mechanism—by noting its bureaucratization, doubts about impartiality, and effectiveness—politicians and media representatives nonetheless disagreed on next steps: parliamentarians formed a working group on the issue, while the media preferred to find consensus among themselves and viewed the official initiative as interference and politicization, further warning about threats to media freedom and independence.9
  • In October, old concerns about excessive use of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and lack of exceptions were exacerbated when the Supreme Administrative Court (LVAT) decided that a local news portal, Atvira Klaipėda, had infringed the GDPR in its investigation into public procurement abuse by disclosing names of persons involved in a municipal purchase. This court decision was viewed as a dangerous precedent, harming public interest and restricting the right to information, and it provoked not only a unified response from the journalistic community but also wide public discussion. As a consequence, LVAT initiated a case review, and parliamentarians undertook to clarify the definition of “public person.”10
  • Public trust in media fell sharply in 2021—especially in the contexts of intensified disinformation,11 the rise of social media as an important source of news,12 two major national crises, and increasing public confrontations over social values—with distrust in media overtaking public sentiment for the first time since Lithuania’s independence.13 This shift was also reflected in crowd behavior during antigovernment protests in the summer, when journalists reported being attacked both verbally and physically.14 Politicians condemned such behavior, and several legislative initiatives were launched to protect the right of journalists to collect information at public events as well as to protect them from unjustified prosecution.15
  • A study early in the year revealed that media outlets in some municipalities experienced pressure from local governments: 59 percent of local journalists noticed exclusionary advertising; 48 percent noted that local government officials provided information exclusives to certain outlets; 48 percent observed that grants from the local budget were given to certain media; and 39 percent noticed the clandestine involvement of local authorities in media business in some regions.16
Local Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the decentralization of power; the responsibilities, election, and capacity of local governmental bodies; and the transparency and accountability of local authorities. 5.756 7.007
  • The year began with high expectations for strengthening Lithuania’s local self-governance.1 This was one of the priorities set forth by the new government,2 inscribed in a new cooperation agreement with the country’s Association of Local Authorities (LSA).3 The same aim was also reflected in the renewal of the bilateral commission in March4 and creation of the governmental Coordinating Commission for Sustainable Development in May.5 OECD recommendations for improving municipal funding and financing of public investments, presented in February, provided additional impetus for change,6 and local government representatives advocated vigorously for increasing their financial independence during the year.7 Although some suggestions (like the autonomous setting of certain taxes or public land management reform) received support from top leaders,8 the central government reacted reluctantly to other proposals (such as looser municipal borrowing).9 In September, the LSA head expressed disappointment that no significant changes had taken place during the year following the signing of the cooperation agreement on strengthening the independence and responsibility of Lithuanian self-government.10
  • In 2021, local governments were actively involved in managing both the pandemic and migration crises. For example, municipalities were entrusted with coronavirus testing and vaccination processes, as well as provided accommodations and other services to migrants. The government named municipalities as partners in this crisis management, but municipalities often expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s poor communication, insufficient coordination,11 and a lack of timely information.12 In the spring, the LSA clashed with the Health Ministry over the return of students to classes after the quarantine.13 And in some cases during the summer, when dealing with the migration crisis, the central government’s decisions were uncoordinated with local governments and taken unilaterally,14 and there were failures in communication.15 To this were added municipalities’ concerns over whether costs incurred as a result of both crises would be reimbursed.16 Other actors, like the president or opposition parties, took sides on these matters as an extension of their individual relationships with the governing majority, thus adding to the country’s tensions.17
  • The involvement of Lithuanians in local governance is typically low.18 However, the practice of participatory budgeting, which has become popular in recent years, seems to be contributing to a change in this trend. An analysis conducted in the fall showed that, despite obstacles posed by the pandemic, a third of municipalities (22 out of 60) offered to some extent the possibility of participatory budgeting for residents in 2021. This number was three times greater than in 2020. Another 13 municipalities planned to implement participatory budgeting in the near future.19
Judicial Framework and Independence 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses constitutional and human rights protections, judicial independence, the status of ethnic minority rights, guarantees of equality before the law, treatment of suspects and prisoners, and compliance with judicial decisions. 5.756 7.007
  • Lithuania’s judiciary remained highly regarded in the EU context in 2021 due to its effectiveness, speed, and digitalization,1 and further improvements were scheduled.2 At the same time, the problems of relatively low funding3 and public distrust persisted. At year’s end, just 23 percent of the population trusted courts as compared to 31 percent who distrusted the judiciary.4 The chairwoman of the Judicial Council noticed, however, that this is more of an image problem since the trust of those who actually encountered the justice system increased to 70 percent.5
  • Perceived judicial independence in Lithuania corresponded to the EU average.6 To strengthen this perception, the Judicial Council proposed to link judicial funding to economic indicators and thereby decouple it from the will of parliamentarians, but this proposal was not approved by the government.7 Over the course of the year, both judges and politicians raised the issue of low judicial salaries as well as the loss of judicial prestige, particularly when discussing vacancies in the country’s three highest courts (especially their chairs).8 Notably, it took until June (an unprecedented 15 months) to finally appoint all judges and the president of the Constitutional Court (KT).9 The Supreme Court (LAT) nevertheless remained with an interim chair since September 2019.10 After public consultations, President Nausėda proposed legislative amendments seeking to increase the efficiency, openness, and transparency of the judiciary.11
  • Protection of human rights for migrants brought challenges in 2021. Given the extraordinary situation at the Belarus border and unprecedented influx of migrants (more than 4,000 entered the country in the summer months as compared to a total of 81 in 2020 and 46 in 201912 ), state institutions faced the difficult task of organizing accommodations, food, clothing, legal information, medical assistance, and other necessities. The first attempts were sharply criticized, most notably by the Seimas Ombudsman, who declared some cases equivalent to inhuman or degrading treatment prohibited by the 1985 U.N. Convention against Torture.13 Ministries, parliamentarians, and even the Red Cross strongly reacted to this report, yet pointed to the efforts made and conditions improving already by the fall.14
  • Controversial pushback tactics against migrants were introduced in August,15 and during an extraordinary session of the parliament in July, legislative amendments were adopted that limited the processing of asylum applications and restricted some rights of migrants, such as free movement or right to appeal during a state of emergency.16 17 These decisions raised concerns both nationally and internationally over Lithuania’s protection of human rights,18 but despite efforts made to find alternatives,19 the statutes remained in force. Furthermore, in December, the term of detainment was extended to one year,20 and there were rising frictions between volunteers and border guards.21
  • Pandemic restrictions on some citizens’ rights were also questioned in the national discourse during the year, such as the highly resonant speech by Ignas Vėgėlė, Chair of the Lithuanian Bar Association, in August.22 In October, opposition parties asked the KT to evaluate the introduction of the “Opportunity Passport” (a Lithuanian COVID-19 immunity certificate).23
  • Lithuania’s prison population continued to decrease in 2021, and the nation dropped from the EU’s top position for highest prison population.24 Further, the Justice Ministry initiated penitentiary reform, which is expected to result in the release of more convicts on parole and a reduction in the number of repeat offenders.25 Meanwhile, police welcomed the first results of the centralization reform, which clarified the functions and responsibilities of structural units, balanced workloads, and reduced administrative burdens.26
  • In June, the Seimas finally began to implement the ECtHR decision of 2011 and started the constitutional amendment process that will allow persons removed from office through impeachment to hold any future office that requires a constitutional oath.27
Corruption 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Looks at public perceptions of corruption, the business interests of top policymakers, laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest, and the efficacy of anticorruption initiatives. 4.505 7.007
  • Survey data early in 2021 showed a continuing decrease in the public’s bribe-giving experience, which shrunk to 9 percent. However, the number of respondents viewing a bribe as an effective way to solve problems increased to 71 percent (up from 61 percent in the previous year). Also unsettling was the observation that although citizens knew where to report corruption (increasing to 50 percent in 2021), a more stagnant percentage (only about 19 percent) indicated that they would actually do so. As a possible outcome of the pandemic, experts noted the significant level of perceived corruption in public procurements, which increased among business persons (rising by 20 percent in some cases).1 Thus, the problem of corruption remains important.
  • In March, reflecting a common attitude, PM Šimonytė criticized anticorruption measures taken by governing institutions as being too formal, fragmented, and without effective coordination or real results.2 However, actions were taken to address this issue. In June, the Seimas adopted a new law on corruption prevention, initiated by the president, the Special Investigative Service (STT), and the parliamentary National Security and Defense Committee. This law enshrines the assessment of corruption risk management, evaluation of the level of resistance to corruption, and implementation of standards of conduct, among other actions.3 The STT head characterized the law as creating the conditions for real change,4 a view echoed by experts,5 although results are yet to come.
  • Likewise, the previous year’s amendments to the law on lobbying were positively evaluated both nationally and internationally,6 and brought visible changes already in January when the number of officially registered lobbyists and influencers (including CSOs) increased sharply.7 Later in the year, Transparency International Lithuania found an increase in parliamentarians declaring their meetings with lobbyists and more publicly available agendas from municipal leaders, cautiously indicating a more transparent culture among decision-makers.8
  • However, there were still new scandals of political corruption and old ones continued. In June, the STT announced a pretrial investigation into possible corruption in the gambling industry and nontransparent influence on legislation.9 Also in June, reversing an earlier court decision with a final and unappealable verdict, the Supreme Court acquitted former Order and Justice Party (TT) leader Rolandas Paksas and Lietuvos Rytas editor Gedvydas Vainauskas in the case of influence peddling.10 Court proceedings continued in the case of bribery and influence peddling involving the MG Baltic group, ongoing for over five years despite its priority status.11 Proceedings also continued in the 2019 “judges’ corruption case,” 12 and new investigations into lawyers’ influence peddling were launched.13 These prolonged proceedings and trials resulting in acquittals allowed the politicians involved to opine about “political executions”14 and further diminished public trust in politics (and the judiciary).

Author: Ieva Petronytė-Urbonavičienė, PhD, is an Assistant Professor and Researcher at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University, and Director of Civil Society Institute, Lithuania.

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