• June 28, 2012
  • 275

AWPL shares its pre-electoral concerns with OSCE

Waldemar Tomaszewski, fot. wilnoteka.lt

Member of European Parliament and the president of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (AWPL), Waldemar Tomaszewski, and the mayor of Vilinus Municipality District Maria Rekść have met in Wilno with the representatives of Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Paul Muresan and Robert Krimmer. During the meeting the situation of Polish minority in Lithuania as related to the oncoming election was discussed. AWPL is anxious about the plans of Central Election Committee to add two electoral districts – namely Sużany and Skirlany – to 54th single mandate electoral district Malaty-Podborze. In the opinion of AWPL politicians it would be another step towards weakening the Polish electorate and lessening the chances of of Poles being appointed MP’s.

The representatives of Polish community provided the OSCE observes with statistical evidence of restricting the voting rights of Polish minority in Lithuania.

‘In the first free parliamentary elections in independent Lithuania, held in 1990 and 1992, the minority organizations had no set election threshold. Association of Poles in Lithuania received eight mandates from its party ticket. However in 1996 5 percent electoral threshold has been instituted for minority parties – with much better election results AWPL only won 2 mandates.’

The power of Polish votes is being restricted by adjusting the borders of electoral districts accordingly. Present division is disadvantageous for the Polish community. Wilno district (75,000 voters, 61 per cent of them Polish)and Soleczniki district (31,000 voters, 79 per cent Polish) were divided into five parts, three of which were attached to neighbouring areas, inhabited in the majority by Lithuanians. As a result, Poles make up the majority only in Wilno-Soleczniki district (20 thousand each).

Central Election Committee also decided to attach furthest districts of Wilno (Solenniki), inhabited primarily by Lithuanians, to Wino-Troki electorate district further shifting ethnic proportions to put the indigenous Polish population at a disadvantage. If the district were divided according to European standards, Poles would make up the majority in four of them. Despite these difficulties in October 2008 election AWPL succeeded by receiving 4,79 per cent of votes and obtaining three mandates. ‘If it weren’t for the 5 per cent threshold, it would have been 8 mandates,’ states the report.

After meeting with ODIHR representatives, president of AWPL Waldemar Tomaszewski told “Wilnoteka” which problems were presented to the EU observers; foremost among them was unwarranted division of Wilno electoral district in such a way that the areas inhabited by Poles were joined with electoral district dominated by Lithuanians, thus weakening Polish voters and reducing the chances to have an adequate number of MP’s representing the ethnic minorities (as compared to their numbers in Lithuanian society).

‘It so happens that Wilno district, the largest one in Lithuania, could have two independent districts of its own; yet it has none, and the area is tattered and joined into electoral districts with six other local governments. So some of the voters will be voting in Szyrwinty or Molaty which is absurd!,’ explained Waldemar Tomaszewski. ‘We also talked about the ban on using native languages during the election. We’ve had problems with it in past elections. We were even threatened with fines.’

The election to the Lithuanian Parliament will take place on O ctober 14th this year. Changes in the voting system, including changing the borders of the districts, can be made no later than July 16th. Presently there are three Polish MP’s in Lithuanian Parliament, elected from single-mandate districts. AWPL is planning to overcome the 5 per cent threshold in the oncoming election, and have more MP’s from its ticket.


Tłumaczenie Andrzej Rola w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Andrzej Rola within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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