Since Lithuania declared independence on March 11, 1990, it has maintained strong democratic traditions. In the first general elections after the independence on October 25, 1992, 56.75% of the total number of voters supported the new constitution. There were heavy debates concerning the constitution, especially the role of the president. Drawing from the interwar experiences, many different proposals were made ranging from a strong parliamentary government to a presidential system similar to the one in the United States. A separate referendum was held on May 23, 1992 to gauge public opinion on the matter and 41% of all the eligible voters supported the restoration of the President of Lithuania. Eventually a semi-presidential system was agreed upon.
The Lithuanian head of state is the President, elected directly for a five-year term, serving a maximum of two consecutive terms. The post of president is largely ceremonial; main policy functions however include foreign affairs and national security policy. The president is also the military commander-in-chief. The President, with the approval of the parliamentary body, the Seimas, also appoints the prime minister and on the latter’s nomination, appoints the rest of the cabinet, as well as a number of other top civil servants and the judges for all courts. The judges of the Constitutional Court (Konstitucinis Teismas), who serve nine-year terms, are appointed by the President (three judges), the Chairman of the Seimas (three judges) and the Chairman of the Supreme Court (three judges). The unicameral Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, has 141 members who are elected to four-year terms. 71 of the members of this legislative body are elected in single constituencies, and the other 70 are elected in a nationwide vote by proportional representation. A party must receive at least 5% of the national vote to be represented in the Seimas.
|Seimas - source|
Head of state: Dalia Grybauskaite - President, Head of Government: Andrius Kubilius (TS-LKD) - Prime Minister, Governing parties: TS-LKD, TPP, LRLS, LiCS
Last national elections: 2008
Last European Parliament election June 2009 See: • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament_election,_2009_(Lithuania) • http://www.europarl.europa.eu/parliament/archive/elections2009/en/lithuania_en.html
Counties and municipalities
Lithuania is subdivided into ten counties and sixty municipalities.
Counties of Lithuania, Municipalities of Lithuania, and Elderships of Lithuania
The current administrative division was established in 1994 and modified in 2000 to meet the requirements of the European Union. Lithuania has a three-tier administrative division: the country is divided into 10 counties (Lithuanian: singular — apskritis, plural — apskritys) that are further subdivided into 60 municipalities (Lithuanian: singular — savivaldybė, plural — savivaldybės) which consist of over 500 elderates (Lithuanian: singular — seniūnija, plural — seniūnijos).
|Map showing municipalities and counties in Lithuania - source|
The counties are ruled by county governors (Lithuanian: apskrities viršininkas) appointed by the central government. They ensure that the municipalities adhere to the laws of Lithuania and the constitution. County government oversees local governments and their implementation of the national laws, programs, and policies.
Municipalities are the most important units. Some municipalities are historically called "district municipalities", and thus are often shortened to "district"; others are called "city municipalities", sometimes shortened to "city." Each municipality has its own elected government. In the past, the election of municipality councils occurred once every three years, but it now takes place every four years. The council elects the mayor of the municipality and other required personnel. The municipality councils also appoint elders to govern the elderates. There is currently a proposal for direct election of mayors and elders, however that would require an amendment to the constitution.
Elderates are the smallest units and they do not play a role in national politics. They were created so that people could receive necessary services close to their homes; for example, in rural areas the elderates register births and deaths. They are most active in the social sector: they identify needy individuals or families and distribute welfare or organize other forms of relief.
The current system of administrative division receives frequent criticism for being too bureaucratic and ineffective. Significant complaints have been made about the number of counties, since they do not have much power. One proposal is to create four lands, a new administrative unit, the boundaries of which would be determined by the ethnographic regions of Lithuania. The benefit would be that the lands would follow natural boundaries, rather than being defined by bureaucrats or politicians. Another of the proposed solutions involves reducing the number of counties so that there would be five in total, each based in one of the five largest cities with populations of over 100,000. Others complain that elderates have no real power and receive too little attention; they could potentially become local initiative communities which could tackle many rural problems.