Freedom in the World
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As Lithuania’s economy continued to worsen in 2009, concerns about the government’s economic austerity measures led to antigovernment demonstrations in January in which nearly 40 people were injured and 150 arrested. In May, independent candidate Dalia Grybauskaite was elected the country’s first female president.
Independent candidate Dalia Grybauskaite, who was supported by the TS-LKD, won the May presidential election with almost 70 percent of the vote, becoming the first woman ever to hold that office in Lithuania. She defeated her closest rival Algirdas Butkevicius of the LSDP, who captured less than 12 percent of the vote. European Parliament elections the following month saw TS-LKD candidates secure the largest number of seats, in contrast to anti-incumbent results in other European countries. Meanwhile, a split in the TPP in mid-2009 resulted in some members of the party withdrawing from the ruling coalition, which was left with 71 members at year’s end.
Lithuania is an electoral democracy. The 1992 constitution established a unicameral, 141-seat Parliament (Seimas), with 71 members elected in single-mandate constituencies and 70 chosen by proportional representation, all for four-year terms. The prime minister is selected by Parliament, and the president is directly elected for a five-year term. While the 2008 parliamentary elections were largely free and fair, there were reports of irregularities, including alleged bribery and forged ballots. Three members of ethnic minorities hold seats in Parliament. Lithuania’s many political parties operate freely, but the Communist Party is banned.