- July 12, 2012
Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania: The present authorities of Lithuania fail
In 2002 October 18-19th in Venice, the Venice Commission adopted the Code of Good Practise in Electoral Matters which aimed to be the “democratic guidline” for new democratic countries such as Lithuania at the beginning of 21st century.
There are points in the Code which regulate the electoral rights of minorities living in the European Union.
There are five rules which are core of the elections in Europe and these are: transparency, equality, secrecy of election and direct voting. By following these rules we are able to ensure the democratic course of election and their fair results.
Equal electoral rights
It means clear and balanced division of mandates in each constituency basing on the number of inhabitants including minorities. Unfortunately, as a result of the decision of the Main Election Commission 90 thousand of voters in Kaunas elect 3 deputies and in Vilnius Region 2 deputies only. The rule also referes to the change of constituencies borders and it should be carried out without political context and without causing any injustice to minorities representatives. The Code is clearly for protection of constituencies where minorities live. For example, the Vilnius Region is one of the most populated in Lithuania but it does not have one electoral mandate constituency which would be independent and separeted from other administrative units. Voters of the Vilnius Region when electing their deputies, vote together with the voters of Szyrwinty, Soleczniki, Troki and Vilnius. The division of constituencies is very unfavourable for Polish community. The Vilnius Region (75 thousand of voters including 61% of Poles) and Soleczniki Region ( 31 thousand of voters including 79% of Poles) were divided into 5 parts, 3 of them were connected to the neighbouring regions mainly populated by Lithuanian community. As a result of this division there is only one Vilnius and Soleczniki Region left (20 thousand of Vilnius Region electors and 20 thousand of Soleczniki Region voters) where Poles are majority. The Main Election Commission also decided to connect the distant towns (Soleniki) to the Vilnius and Troki constituency which are mainly populated by Lithuanian community which changes the national proportion to the disadvantage of autochthonous Polish minority. Yesterday, July 10th, 2012 the Main Election Commission made the situation worse by transferring two electoral districts of Vilnius Region i.e. Suzanski No 45 and Skirlanski No 47 from Vilnius and Szyrwiny constituency no 55 to the malacko-swiecianski constituency No 54. So in the Vilnius Region there is one more constituency including two different regions. By changing the borders of constituencies the Polish voice of Polish minority is weakened.
Freedom of choice
Any voter has a right to the opinion about any candidate. The authorities representatives should be neutral. Particulary, the authority has no right to interfere in the mass-media or to place visual advertisements. Besides such information shall be presented in the minority language, which is not the case in Lithuania. Equality of possibilities is as important as the rule of equal chances for all candidates and political parties. It means that all participants of the election should be treated equally and neutrally by all state institutions. Unfortunately, during another election there are no voting papers issued in minorities languages.
Equality and minorities
The Code says that according to the acts of international law all people have equal electoral rights. It also refers to the minorities representatives who should be protected against any discrimination. The majority rule should not deprive the minorities representatives the right of being members or heads of electoral bodies. Unfortunately since 1995 untill today the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania representatives have never been heads of constituencies although there are well-educated and competent people in the party and during each election the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania suggests its candidates to the Main Election Commission. We presented here only several points of the Code of Good Practise of the Venice Commission which describe the way the state should treat its citizens – the minorities representatives. It is a regrettable incident that the present Lithuanian government fails in this matter.
The Main Election Commission decision infringes the UE law
The decision of July 10th infringed the Code of Good Practise in Electoral Matters adopted by the Venice Commission in Venice on 18-19th October 2002. The Main Election Commission established the new constituency by separating the two electoral districts of the Vilnius Region by connecting them to the malacki and swiecianski Region. This decision is very unfavourable for the Polish local community. For example, the two electoral districts where 80% of total inhabitants are of Polish origin were connected to the malacki Region and now the Polish voice will simply disapear as there are only 6% of Poles in malacki region!
Inspite of the Main Electoral Commission discriminatory decisions, the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania has the trust and support of electors and has a chance to win even 13-16 mandates in the Lithuanian parliament. Waldemar Tomaszewski, the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania chairman pointed out that the party is determined enough to overcome the obstacles created by the present government.
Tłumaczenie Dorota Szewczyk-Madejewska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Dorota Szewczyk-Madejewska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.