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Lithuania, Government

Seimas, direct popular vote, single-member districts, Peace program, remaining seats

Lithuania is a democratic republic. According to its constitution, which was ratified in October 1992, a president is head of state. The president is elected by direct popular vote for a term of five years and may serve a maximum of two consecutive terms. With the approval of parliament, the president appoints a prime minister. The president also appoints members of the council of ministers on the nomination of the prime minister. For administrative purposes, the country is divided into 10 counties, which are subdivided into 44 regions and 11 municipalities.

The highest legislative authority in Lithuania is the Seimas, or parliament, a single-chamber body composed of 141 members elected to four-year terms. Seventy-one seats in the Seimas are determined by direct popular vote in single-member districts, while the remaining seats are allocated on a proportional basis to each party that receives at least 5 percent of the vote. All citizens age 18 and older may vote.

Lithuania’s judicial system, which is based on a civil law system, consists of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, and district and local courts. The Supreme Court is the highest court. Its judges are appointed by the Seimas on the recommendation of the president. The Seimas also appoints the members of the Constitutional Court, which rules on the constitutionality of legislation. The president appoints all other judges, with appointments to the Court of Appeal subject to approval by the Seimas.

Lithuania’s major political parties are the Homeland Union, the Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party, the Lithuanian Center Union Party, the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party, the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party (DLP; formerly the Communist Party of Lithuania), and the Lithuanian Democratic Party. Parties representing ethnic minorities include the Union of Poles. In parliamentary elections held in 1996, the DLP lost most of its seats. The Homeland Union, a newly formed conservative party, emerged with the largest number of seats (70) and joined a ruling coalition with the Christian Democrats.

During the Soviet period, Lithuania had no armed forces separate from those of the Soviet Union. Lithuania’s defense forces now include an army of 7,500, a paramilitary border guard, and a volunteer home guard reserve. The country also has a small navy (580 members) and air force (800 members). Men are conscripted for 12 months beginning at age 18.

Lithuania is a member of the United Nations (UN) and the Council of Europe. The country also participates in the Partnership for Peace program of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Lithuania’s relations with its Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Estonia, are loosely coordinated through the Baltic Assembly, a consultative intergovernmental body established in late 1991. Like the other Baltic states, Lithuania has declined membership in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a loose alliance of most of the former Soviet republics.

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