ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Final Report (excerpts), 2017

VIII. CANDIDATE REGISTRATION

Eligible voters of at least 25 years of age on election day with registered residence in the country may stand for election. A number of restrictions on candidacy are imposed. Judges, active and alternative military personnel who have not retired from the service, officials of statutory institutions and establishments, individuals who have not finished serving a prison sentence 65 days prior to elections, and persons bound by an oath or allegiance to a foreign state are not eligible to stand. Candidacy restriction based on possession of citizenship of another state is at odds with the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).24 Potential candidates are obliged to declare to the CEC if they collaborated with “special services of other states” and if they have current or prior criminal convictions. The information on the latter is included in voter information materials without distinction as to types or gravity of offences.

24 See Tanase v. Moldova (application no. 7/08, 27 April 2010).

Restrictions on candidate rights for people with dual citizenship should be removed.

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XII. PARTICIPATION OF NATIONAL MINORITIES

Based on the 2011 census, national minorities in Lithuania comprise about 15 per cent of the population. Poles are the largest minority with 6.6 per cent of the population, followed by Russians (5.8 per cent), Belarusians (1.2 per cent), and other smaller minority groups.51

51 See the official 2011 census data.

Minorities enjoy constitutionally protected rights, including the right to foster their languages, culture, and customs. Lithuania is also a party to the 1994 Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The legal framework provides for the participation of national minorities in the electoral process on an equal basis. The establishment of political parties based on ethnic grounds is permitted. The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance, the Russian Alliance, and the Union of Russians are the registered political parties representing national minority interests. Some of the OSCE/ODIHR EAM interlocutors shared a concern that minority interests are primarily represented through these parties with very limited outreach from other parties on substantive issues to minorities. 52

52 This was also noted as a concern by the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Third Opinion on Lithuania, ACFC/OP/III(2013)005, paragraph 94.

According to some OSCE/ODIHR EAM interlocutors, several elements of the legal framework do not facilitate minority representation.53 These include the thresholds for entering the parliament,54 the increased membership requirement for parties to be registered, and the recently introduced restriction on the inclusion of candidates from other parties in party lists.55

53 The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in their 2009 General Recommendation 32 called on the party States to use special measures in implementing Article 5 of the ICERD, including “legislative, executive, administrative, budgetary and regulatory instruments, at every level in the State apparatus … in areas such as … participation in public life for disfavoured groups, devised and implemented on the basis of such instruments.” See also paragraph 31 of the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document, which provides that: “The participating States will adopt, where necessary, special measures for the purpose of ensuring to persons belonging to national minorities full equality with the other citizens in the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

54 The OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities Lund Recommendations on the Effective Participation of National Minorities in Public Life state that “Lower numerical thresholds for representation in the legislature may enhance the inclusion of national minorities in governance”. See also paragraph I.2.4 of the 2002 Venice Commission Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters.

55 Following 2015 amendments, a contestant that has put forward a candidate list, which includes two or more representatives of another party, is regarded as a coalition. The higher threshold of seven per cent is then applied, making it more difficult for smaller parties, including minority parties, to compete. Paragraph 76 of the 2010 OSCE/ODIHR and Venice Commission Guidelines on Political Party Regulation states: “Although limitations based on minimum support established through the collection of signatures are legitimate, the state must ensure they are not overly burdensome as to restrict the political activities of small parties or to discriminate against parties representing minorities”

Upon consultation with national minorities, special measures could be introduced to facilitate minority participation and representation in public and political life. These could include lowered thresholds and party membership requirements for minority parties.

Ballots were available only in Lithuanian language.56 Voter education and information materials were translated and published in Polish and Russian in two minority language newspapers. However, representatives of national minorities expressed their concern to the OSCE/ODIHR EAM that such materials, as well as information on parties and candidates in minority languages were not as comprehensive as those produced in Lithuanian and were not widely available, including on the CEC website. Public debates were broadcast in Lithuanian only, limiting information available to citizens from national minorities, particularly the elderly who are more likely to face language barriers. 57 According to the CEC, contestants could request subtitles during the debates, but only at their own
expense.

56 In its 2006 decision, the Constitutional Court ruled that the use of minority languages on the ballots contradicts the provision of the Constitution, which identifies Lithuanian as the state language and imposes its exclusive use in the public domain.

57 The Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities recommended in its Thematic Commentary no. 3 “The Language Rights of Persons Belonging to National Minorities under the Framework Convention”, paragraph 92, that “The authorities should also consider providing opportunities for the use of minority languages in public service television and radio programmes devoted to election campaigns and on ballot slips and other electoral material in areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities traditionally or in substantial numbers”.

Effective participation of national minorities could be supported by producing comprehensive voter education and information materials in minority languages and making them broadly available, especially in minority-populated areas. Publicly funded subtitling of debates into minority languages on public television could be considered.

National minorities were represented in the PECs and ConECs. The PECs visited by the OSCE/ODIHR EAM appeared to reflect the diversity of the local population.

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XVI. RECOMMENDATIONS

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A. PRIORITY RECOMMENDATIONS

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3. Restrictions on candidate rights for people with dual citizenship should be removed. Consideration could be given to reviewing the purpose and format of including information on prior criminal convictions on voter information materials.

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5. Upon consultation with national minorities, special measures could be introduced to facilitate minority participation and representation in public and political life. These could include lowered thresholds and party membership requirements for minority parties.

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B. OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS

7. The CEC should further intensify its efforts of providing accessible and comprehensive voter education and information to all groups of voters, particularly to persons with disabilities and national minorities.

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18. Effective participation of national minorities could be supported by producing comprehensive voter education and information materials in minority languages and making them broadly available, especially in minority-populated areas. Publicly funded subtitling of debates into minority languages on public television could be considered.

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Document data: 31.01.2017 Link: https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/251686 Also available in Lithuanian

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