|EAPL: the Current Government of Lithuania does not Pass the Exam|
On 18th-19th October 2002 in Venice, the Venice Commission has adopted the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters, which was aimed to become an 'election guide' of the beginning of 21st century for new democratic states including Lithuania.
A few points of the Code regulate the suffrage (electoral rights) of national minorities inhabiting the states of the European Union.
These are five rules, which appear to be the essence of elections in Europe:
- universal suffrage,
- equal suffrage,
- free suffrage,
- secret suffrage,
- direct suffrage.
Only by following these rules there is a possibility to ensure the democratic process of elections and their fair results.
This means a clear and balanced distribution of seats in electoral constituencies based on the criterion of the number of inhabitants (including national minorities). Unfortunately, Central Electoral Commission caused the situation, where e.g. 90 thousand of inhabitants in Kaunas can elect three members to the Seimas, while the same amount of inhabitants in the Vilnius Region - only two.
This rule also includes a change of electoral constituency boundaries, which has to be conducted without any political undertone and without detriment to national minorities. The Code clearly advocates for the protection of electoral constituencies inhabited by national minorities.
For example, Vilnius district is one of the biggest in Lithuania in terms of number of inhabitants. But there are no independent, separate from other administrative territorial units single-mandate electoral constituency. When electing their members to the Seimas, voters of the Vilnius district vote together with voters from Širvintai, Šalčininkai, Trakai and Vilnius city.
The division into electoral constituencies is very unfavourable for Polish community. The districts of Vilnius (75 thousand of voters, 61% of them - Poles) and Šalčininkai (31 thousand of voters, 79% of them - Poles) were divided into 5 parts, 3 of which were attached to the neighbouring districts inhabited mainly by Lithuanians. As a result of such division, there is only one Vilnius - Šalčininkai constituency (20 thousand of voters from the Vilnius region and 20 thousand of voters from the Šalčininkai region) were Poles make up the majority. Also, the Central Electoral Commission made the decision to attach further Vilnius districts (Salininkai), inhabited mainly by Lithuanians, to the Vilnius-Trakai constituency. This even more changes the national proportions to the detriment of indigenous Polish population. In case of the division into electoral constituencies according to the European standards, Poles would make up the majority of voters in 4 constituencies.
Yesterday, on 10th July 2012, the Central Electoral Commission worsened the situation even more by making the decision to transfer two electoral districts of Sužionys No. 45 and Skirlėnai No. 47 of Širvintai-Vilnius electoral constituency No. 55 to Molėtai-Švenčionys electoral constituency No. 54. Therefore, we have one more electoral constituency common with other regions.
The electoral power of Polish national minority is weakened by changing the boundaries of electoral constituencies that way
Voters have the right to form their own opinion on every candidate. State authorities must observe neutrality. In particular, authorities have no right to interfere in the media and visual advertising. Moreover, this informatition has to be presented also in the language of a national minority, what is still not common in Lithuania.
Equality of Opportunities
The principle of equal opportunities for candidates and political parties is no less important for the European heritage. This entails a neutral and equal attitude by state authorities with regard to all participants of elections. Unfortunately, during successive elections in a row, there are no ballot papers printed also in the languages of national minorities.
Equality and National Minorities
The Code claims, that everyone has equal suffrage. This also involves representatives of the national minorities, who have to be protected against any discrimination. The principle of majority shall not prevent representatives of national minorities to become members or chairmen of electoral boards. Unfortunately, from 1995 until today, the representatives of EAPL has not been assigned as chairmen of electoral constituencies, although there are really educated and competent people belonging to the EAPL and the party proposes its candidates for the Central Electoral Commission during each election.
Not Passed Exam
We have presented only a few points of the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters, which describe the way a state should treat its citizens - representatives of national minorities. We can only regret, that the current government of Lithuania does not pass the exam of this subject in no case.
The Decision of the Central Electoral Commission Violates the EU right
The abovementioned decision of the Central Electoral Commission made on 10th July 2012 has violated the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters adopted by the Venice Commission on 18th-19th October 2002 in Venice.
The Central Electoral Commission essentially created a new constituency, by dragging away two electoral districts of Vilnius district and attaching them to the districts of Švenčionys and Molėtai. Such decision is especially disadvantageous for local Poles. For example, two electoral districts, where inhabitants of Polish origin make up 80 percent of all inhabitants, were attached to Molėtai district and now Polish votes will simply disappear, as Poles make up only 6 percent of inhabitants in the Molėtai district!
Despite discriminatory decisions of the Central Electoral Commission, the regional Party Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania enjoys the increasing confidence and support of voters and has a chance to gain up to 13-16 seats in the Seimas of Lithuania. The EAPL leader Valdemar Tomaševski has once again stressed, that the party is strongly determined to overcome all the artificial barriers created by the current government.
EAPL Press Office
11th July 2012