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Right to Free Elections

III. Restriction of Foreigners' Right to Political Participation

Directive 94/80/EC of the European Union establishes that any person who is an EU citizen and not a national of the Member State of residence, but who in any event satisfies the same conditions in respect of the right to vote and to stand as a candidate as that State imposes by law on its own nationals, shall have the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections in the Member State of residence.[1]

Foreigners with temporary residence permits (non-EU nationals) are still excluded from running for office or voting in municipal council elections.

The Law on Elections to Municipal Councils was amended at the end of 2012, setting out that only permanent residents of that particular municipality may be elected to a municipal council, namely: Lithuanian nationals whose declared place of residence is found within the territory of this municipality; nationals of other EU Member States whose declared place of residence is found within the territory of this municipality; or other persons with the right to permanently reside in Lithuania whose declared place of residence is found within the territory of this municipality.[2] Foreigners with temporary residence permits (non-EU nationals) are still excluded from running for office or voting in municipal council elections.[3] A possibility to run for mayor is limited exclusively to Lithuanian nationals.[4]       

A possibility of foreigners to participate in the activities of political parties was introduced in 2014. Admittedly, this new (and very limited) opportunity is only available to European Union nationals, not nationals of third countries. 

Up until the end of 2014, the Law on Political Parties established that only Lithuanian nationals could become founding members of or join political parties.[5] After the amendments to the Law on Political Participation came into force on 1 January 2015, this was revised so that EU nationals who are not members of political parties abroad and who have resided in Lithuania for the last five years without interruption can now also join local political parties.[6] EU nationals are still not allowed to become founding members of political parties. It is regrettable that even these modest amendments, providing limited opportunities for foreigners to become involved with political parties in Lithuania, were difficult to pass. 

When the Ministry of Justice presented its proposed amendments to the Law on Political Parties in July 2013, providing for a possibility of EE nationals to form and become members of political parties[7], Parliament opposed the idea and refused to consider the draft law further. Conservative political forces stressed the threats the amendments posed to Lithuania's sovereignty, statehood, preservation of its national identity and territorial integrity.[8] Following this, a few more modest versions of the amendments were submitted to the Parliament – these only sought to allow EU nationals to become members of political parties, still denying them the possibility to become founding members.[9] The final version reflects a political compromise, being least favourable to EU nationals – they are further required to not be "members of political parties or political organizations abroad" and to have resided in Lithuania for five years without interruption. There is no such requirement for Lithuanian nationals to abstain from membership in political parties or organizations abroad.

Findings and Recommendations 

  • The amendments to the Law on Political Parties that allow EU citizens to become members of Lithuanian political parties, adopted in November 2014, are viewed positively.
  • It is recommended to continue the political dialogue and expand the rights of EU nationals to become involved with Lithuanian political parties, allowing them to form their own parties, as well as granting comparable rights regarding membership in political parties to  EU nationals in Lithuania, regardless if their residence is permanent or temporary; it is also recommended to expand the possibility of non-EU nationals to become involved with political parties.
  • A possibility of foreigners with a temporary residence permit (non-EU citizens) to participate in municipal council elections remains limited: they are still prevented from voting or running for office. It is recommended to amend the Law on the Elections to Municipal Councils in order to ensure equal opportunities for all foreigners residing in Lithuania to vote in municipal elections and run for office.

[1] Council Directive 94/80/EC of 19 December 1994 laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections by citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals, Art. 3, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/LT/TXT/?uri=CELEX:31994L0080

[2] Law on Elections to Municipal Councils, 7 July 1994, No. I-532, Articles 2(2) and 2(3), http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=493985

[3] Karolis Žibas,  "Political Participation and Electoral Rights of Third Country Nationals Residing in Lithuania", March 2014, http://www.mipas.lt/lt/projektine-veikla/304/lietuvoje-gyvenanciu-treciuju-saliu-pilieciu-politinis-dalyvavimas-ir-rinkimu-teises

[4] Law on Elections to Municipal Councils, 7 July 1994, No. I-532, Article 2(2), http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=493985

[5] Law on Political Parties, 15 April 2004, No. 54-1831, Article 5,  http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=478862

[6] Law Amending the Preamble and Articles 2, 3, 5, 8 of Law No. I-606 on Political Parties, 6 November 2014, No. XII-1292, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=487540

[7] Law Amending the Preamble and Articles 2,3,5 and 8 of the Law on Political Parties, 22 July 2013, No. XIIP-875, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=453884 

[8] Karolis Žibas,  "Political Participation and Electoral Rights of Third Country Nationals Residing in Lithuania", March 2014, http://www.mipas.lt/lt/projektine-veikla/304/lietuvoje-gyvenanciu-treciuju-saliu-pilieciu-politinis-dalyvavimas-ir-rinkimu-teises

[9] Draft Law Amending the Preamble and Articles 2, 3, 5, 8 of Law No. I-606 on Political Parties, 23 June 2014, XIIP-875(3), http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=475969; draft Law Amending the Preamble and Articles 2, 3, 5, 8 of Law No. I-606 on Political Parties, 16 October 2014, No. XIIP-875(4), http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=484936   


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