Understanding Lithuanian Elections


Voters are casting their ballots in parliamentary elections on October 11. However, most of them will have to come back to the voting booths just two weeks later. Here is a useful summary from lrt.lt, outlining how the elections work.

The Lithuanian parliament, Seimas, is the main legislative institution in the country. It consists of a single chamber with 141 members who serve a four-year term. Lithuanian citizens aged 25 and older on the election day and permanently residing in Lithuania can run for the Seimas. Those aged 18 and older on the election day have the right to vote.

The Seimas is responsible for enacting new laws and amendments, ratifying international treaties, approving the national budget and monitoring government spending, setting taxes, confirming the prime minister and the government, and overseeing their activities.

Lithuania’s parliament is elected under a mixed system. Of the 141 members, 71 are elected in single-member constituencies. The remaining 70 MPs are elected in the multi-member constituency, which covers the entire country, where the vote is based on open list proportional representation.

Open list proportional representation means that voters can, to some extent, influence which of the party’s candidates get into parliament. The parties submit their electoral lists before the election that can then be somewhat reshuffled by the voters’ ranking candidates on a chosen list. All eligible voters can cast two ballots: one for a candidate in their constituency and one for a party list of their choice.

Individual candidates, who may be affiliated with a party or run independently, stand to be elected in 71 constituencies across Lithuania. In the single-member constituencies, where people vote according to their place of residency, members of parliament are elected in two-round elections. If more than 40% of constituency voters cast their ballots in the first round and one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, he or she wins a seat in the Seimas without a runoff. However, if the turnout is less than 40%, a candidate must get at least one-fifth of the votes of all eligible voters in order to be elected in the first round. If no candidate receives more than half of the cast votes, a runoff ballot is held two weeks after the first vote between the two front-runners.

In the multi-member constituency, voters get to choose among candidate lists. Only political parties can register their lists – of no fewer than 20 candidates – although they can run jointly.

An election in the multi-member constituency is valid if more than one-fourth of all eligible voters cast their ballots.

Seats are allocated proportionally, but a party must clear the 5% threshold to get any, while a joint list of several parties must get at least 7% of the votes. Candidates take up the seats won by their parties according to the ranking on the electoral lists and adjusted by preference votes. For example, if a party wins three seats, the top three candidates on its electoral list, adjusted after the election, become members of the Seimas. If a candidate at the top of the list also wins a seat in a single-member constituency, the person next in line on the list gets the spot.

Once all the ballots are counted and parliament seats are assigned, the leader of the winning party – or its designated prime ministerial candidate – is invited by the president to form a government. It is quite unlikely for a single party to win more than half of the parliament seats, which means that the PM-designate then has to form a coalition and present his or her cabinet and government programme for a vote in the Seimas within 15 days. Once the programme is confirmed by the Seimas, the cabinet receives its powers to govern. News from LRT.lt