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Lithuania

Lithuania

Lithuania is aunitary stateand aparliamentary republic, based on the rule of law and expressing the common will and interests of its people. The Constitution protects the foundations of the social system and it also establishes the rights, freedoms and obligations of citizens. The Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania was adopted on 25 October, 1992. According to the Constitution, State power is exercised by a unicameral Parliament called "Seimas", the President of the Republic, the Government and the judiciary, which is made up of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and district courts. The Constitution also establishes the Constitutional Court. The Republic of Lithuania is divided into 56 administrative units; 12 cities and 44 regions. Territorial units established by virtue of statue are entitled to the right of self-government.

As stipulated in Article 77(1) of the Lithuanian Constitution (hereinafter, the "LC"), thePresident of the Republicis the Head of State. The citizens of the Republic of Lithuania elect the President for a five year term of office, with elections held on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot. The LC stipulates that the same person may not be elected to the office of the President for more than two successive terms. Strictly speaking, the President is not the chief of the executive branch or chief administrator. The Lithuanians borrowed the French model of presidency and subsequently adapted it to their needs. Article 78 of the LC sets out the requirements that a person must meet in order to qualify as a candidate. Whereas Article 81 of the LC sets out the voting thresholds and requirements for Presidential elections, stating that in order for elections to be held valid, fifty per cent of voters must participate in voting and a candidate must receive more than half of the total votes cast. In the event that this threshold is not met, a second round of voting must be organized between the two candidates who receive the greatest number of votes in the first, unsuccessful round. The candidate receiving the greatest number of votes in this second round will assume the office of the President.

The main duties of thePresidentare defined by the Constitution and by the Presidential Law of Lithuania (26 January 1993, No. I-56). The President of the Republic settles basic issues of foreign policy in cooperation with the Government signs international treaties and submits them to the Seimas for ratification. Also, upon the approval of the Seimas he or she appoints and dismisses the Prime Minister, authorizes him or her to form Government and endorses its composition. The president also accepts resignations from the Government and the Ministers and pursuant to Article 84(7) of the LC may authorize them to act in a certain capacity. All of the powers and duties of the President have been laid down in Article 84 of the LC and interestingly, this includes the power to grant pardons to sentenced persons (Article 84 (23) LC). Further and subject to the approval of the Seimas, the President appoints the chief commander of the army and the head of the security service. The President has considerable powers to influence the judicial branch. This is reflected in his or her right to nominate (with approval of the Seimas) three justices to the Constitutional Court and all justices to the Supreme Court. Additionally, subject to legislative approval the President also appoints judges of the Court of Appeals.

Executive powerhas been vested in the Government of Lithuania, consisting of the Prime Minister and Ministers (Council of Ministers). The Government is the main central policy-making and executive body. The Prime Minister, subject to the approval of the Seimas, is appointed and dismissed by the President. The President also appoints and dismisses the Ministers, in accordance with the recommendations made by the Prime Minister. The activities of the Government are set out by the LC and the laws of Lithuania, that is, acts adopted by the Seimas as well as, decrees of the President. Article 2 of the Law on Government (adopted on 28 April 1998) sets out the main powers held by the executive. In order for a new Government to obtain authorisation to act, the Seimas must first approve its programme by majority vote of the Seimas members present at the sitting. Additionally, Article 95 of the LC stipulates that "the Government of the Republic of Lithuania shall resolve the affairs of State administration at its sittings by issuing directives which must be passed by a majority vote of all members of the Government. The State Controller (who supervises the legality and management and utilisation of State property and the implementation of the State budget – Article 134 (1)) and the may also participate in the sittings of the Government." All governmental structures are defined by statute.

The main powers of the Government as a body are the protection of the constitutional order and inviolability of the territory of the Republic of Lithuania, administration of the affairs of the country, and ensuring of state security and public order. The Government also implements the laws and resolutions of the Seimas, as well as the decrees of the president of the republic and co-ordinates the activities of ministries and other governmental institutions. One of the most important responsibilities of the Government is to prepare the draft budget of the state and submit it to the Seimas for approval. Subsequent to obtaining approval the Government must implement the State budget and report on the implementation of the budget to the Seimas. The Government may also submit a request to the Constitutional Court for review of the conformity of laws and other Acts adopted by the Seimas with the Constitution. The government is collectively responsible to the Seimas for their activities. The Ministers, are responsible to the Seimas and the President for activities conducted within the scope of the portfolios entrusted to them. Ministers are directly subordinate to the Prime Minister.

ThePrime Ministerrepresents the government and directs its activities. Pursuant to Article 92 of the LC, he or she has, among others, the power to form government and submit its composition for the approval of the President of the Republic.

The LC conferslegislative powerupon the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament). The Seimas consists of 141 members being representatives of the people (Article 55 LC). The MPs are elected for a term of four years with the Parliament being deemed elected when at least three-fifths of the Parliament members have been elected. In the Seimas the members work in factions, committees and commissions. By virtue of Article 67 of the LC the Seimas consider andenact amendments to the Lithuanian Constitution, as well as enacting other laws and adopting resolutions for the organization of referendums. The Seimas have wide powers and these are expressed in Article 67 of the LC. Among others, the Seimas announce presidential elections, form State institutions, accept or reject the candidature for the office of the Prime Minister, consider and decide upon the approval of the program of the Government as well as, supervise their activities. Upon recommendation of the Government, the Seimas also establish or abolish ministries and appoint the Members and Chairman of the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court (pursuant to the recommendation made by the President). The Seimas also approve and supervise the implementation of the State budget, equally, they may appoint and dismiss the State Controller.

According to the LC thelegislative processis initiated by the submission of a draft bill to the Seimas. This may be done by members of the Seimas, the President and/or the Government. Equally, 50,000 citizens with voting rights may also submit draft laws. Legislation is passed by a simple majority vote of the members present (Article 69(2) LC) without the requirement of a parliamentary quorum. Constitutional laws, however, require the approval of more than half of all the members. The introduction of amendments to constitutional laws requires a three-fifths majority vote of all the members. The bill as passed by the Seimas, comes into effect following it being signed and officially announced by the President, except when the legislation provides for a later effective date. The Chairman of the Seimas (who heads the work of the Parliament) signs other Acts passed by the Seimas, as well as the statues of the Seimas. Laws and other Acts are published in the Government’s official gazette (Valstybes Zinios). Article 69(4) of the LC states that provisions of the laws of Lithuania may also be adopted by referendum.

Article 109 of the LC, vestsjudicial powerin the courts of the Republic of Lithuania. In 1994, the Law on Courts established a four-tiered court system. Pursuant to Art.111 of the LC , the Law on Courts also established 54 district courts, five regional courts, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Additionally, there is a special administrative court system in place, hearing cases pertaining to the activities of public authorities and officials. The administrative courts division has five regional courts and since January 2001, a Head Administrative Court, which is the appellate court for administrative cases. Cassation is not available in the administrative courts system, currently, this jurisdiction is exercised by the Supreme Court, which is the only institution responsible for cassation review. Additionally, the jurisdiction of the economic courts, within the district and regional court system was abolished in 1998 and all cases have been referred to commercial arbitrators. There are no military courts in Lithuania and in accordance with Article 111 of the LC, extraordinary courts are not permitted in times of peace.

On 3 February 1993, the Lithuanian Parliament adopted the Law on theConstitutional Courtof Lithuania. This Law defines the status and procedures of functioning of the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court operates as an independent institution alongside the regular court system. Article 102 of the LC stipulates that the role of the Court is to review the constitutionality of the acts of Parliament and the legality and constitutionality of acts of the President and Government. The decisions of the Constitutional Court on issues within its jurisdiction are final and are not subject to appeal. The Court consists of nine judges who are appointed for non-renewable nine-year terms. One-third of the Court is appointed every three years. Parliament appoints all judges by selecting three each from the nominees recommended by the President, the Chairman of Parliament, and the President of the Supreme Court, respectively. The Constitutional Court is financed directly from the State budget and has a separate budget line.

The Lithuanianlegal systemis one of written law. It is a civil law system based on the Constitution, international agreements ratified by the Seimas, laws – constitutional or ordinary and other Acts adopted by the Seimas, decrees of the President of the Republic, government resolutions, orders of the Prime Minister and orders of local self-governments. Since the independent state of Lithuania was re-established, it has been necessary to adapt the law to the new democratic constitution and EU requirements. Much legislation has been repealed and replaced with legislation similar to that of Western democracies. This trend of legislative amendment will continue in light of Lithuania’s accession to the European Union in May 2004.

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Lithuania is:

  • OSCE Participating State since 10 September 1991
  • Member State of the United Nations since 17 September 1991
  • Member State of the Council of Europe since 15 May 1993
  • Member State of the European Union since 1 May 2004
 

Status of Ratification of the Main International Human Rights Treaties, Conventions and other instruments

International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2007)19 July 2007
UN Convention against Corruption (2003)21 December 2006
Protocol No.13 to the ECHR concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances (2003)01 May 2004
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Legal Reviews

Opinion on the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on the Seimas Ombudsmen

Date : 21 September 2011 English [0.45 MB]
 
 

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Constitutional Court