The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s). Although the country’s major problems persisted, corruption foremost, there were modest improvements in local electoral reform.
Obstacles to the development of independent media have become especially prominent over the past several years.Even though the parliament has repealed provisions regarding insult in the penal code, an article remains that includes the penalty of imprisonment for libel.Despite these arguments, public trust in the judicial system’s main institutions (i.e., courts, prosecutor general, police) continued to increase.The Constitutional Court remained active in Lithuanian politics, with two significant rulings concerning municipal budgets and how voters are apportioned to the electoral system’s 71 single-member districts.Language policy issues remained unresolved as the parliament postponed a bill that would have enabled the use of the Latin letters in Lithuanian ID cards and passports, which would allow Polish and other people to use preferred name spellings.
Relations between the constitutionally nonpartisan president Dalia Grybauskaitė and the governing coalition, led by the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP), were moderately strained on several occasions, but these issues remained below the level of political conflict.
The reform has the potential to improve the quality of democracy in Lithuania, both by introducing accountability for mayors, which were previously elected by municipal councils, and by forcing political parties to further develop their local organizations.
Party membership is growing slowly, but the modest increase in 2015 is mostly explained by an increase in the minimum party membership requirement to 2,000, which took effect at the end of the year.
Though parties in some major cities experienced losses, and results were annulled in three districts due to violations of electoral law, the reform was relatively successful.
One-third of municipalities elected mayors in the first round, and trust in municipalities has risen to the highest level in a decade.
The three-party center-left governing coalition remained stable during the year, with only one ministerial change in the government.