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1990 Lithuanian Supreme Soviet election

Lithuanian legislative election, 1990

← 1936 February 24, 1990 1992 →

141 seats to the
Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR

The Lithuanian legislative elections for 141 seats in the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR were held in the Lithuanian SSR on 24 February with run-off elections on 4, 7, 8 and 10 March 1990.[1] In six constituencies voter turnout was below required minimum, therefore a third round was held on April 7 and 21.[2] For the first time since the election to the People's Seimas in 1940, non-communist candidates were allowed to run. It was the first and the only free multi-party elections in Soviet Lithuania. Pro-independence Sąjūdis movement refused to become a political party and endorsed candidates of various other political parties based on their personal merits.[3] These endorsements often meant more than official party affiliations, and Sąjūdis-backed candidates won 91 out of 135 seats.[1] During its third session on 11 March 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR adopted the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania thus declaring Lithuania's independence from the Soviet Union.


On March 26, 1989, elections took place for 42 seats in the Congress of People's Deputies. Despite Easter Sunday celebrations and boycott by dissident organizations such as the Lithuanian Liberty League, the turnout reached 82.5%.[4] The results were a sweeping victory to Sąjūdis: 36 out of its 39 candidates won against the Communist Party of Lithuania (CPL).[4] The communists won only 6 seats; two of them were uncontested as Sąjūdis withdrew its candidates in favor of Algirdas Brazauskas and Vladimiras Beriozovas.[4] CPL, shaken by the defeat, was losing authority and membership. To save the party, its leader Brazauskas moved closer to the pro-independence movements.[5] The party now supported calls for "sovereignty" and cooperated with Sąjūdis. On December 7, 1989, the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR, then fully controlled by CPL, amended the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR eliminating Article 6, which established communist party monopoly in political life.[6] The decision meant that Lithuania eliminated legal obstacles for a multi-party system and allowed other parties to compete in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

During its 20th congress on December 19–20, the CPL separated itself from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) by a vote of 855 to 160.[7] For such insubordination Brazauskas was scolded in a special session of the Central Committee of CPSU and Mikhail Gorbachev made a personal visit to Lithuania to heal the rift in January 1990.[8] However, such measures changed little and CPL (independent) kept slowly pushing for independence. This political divorce was not approved by hardline communists. They established a separate CPL, which was still part of the CPSU and claimed to be legal successor of the "real" CPL.[9] This pro-Moscow group was led by Mykolas Burokevičius and included disproportionately large numbers of representatives from Russian and Polish minorities.[7]

Campaign and results

Summary results of the 1990 parliamentary election[1]
Parties and coalitions Seats
Endorsed by
Independents 64 58
Communist Party of Lithuania (independent) 46 17
Lithuanian Social-Democratic Party 9 9
Communist Party of Lithuania (CPSU) 7
Lithuanian Green Party 4 4
Lithuanian Democratic Party 3 1
Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party 2 2
Young Communist League of Lithuania
Turnout: 71.72% 135 91

The main competition was between Sąjūdis and CPL (independent). While both camps agreed on the eventual goal of independent Lithuania, Sąjūdis advocated acting quickly without fearing Moscow's reaction and CPL campaigned for a step-by-step approach to avoid conflict with Moscow.[10] Even though Sąjūdis was not a political party and was not reflected in any official statistics,[11] its endorsements had immense influence on candidate's electability because the votes would be cast not for party lists, but for specific personalities.[12] Such endorsements would be handed out based on personal merits and without regard to political affiliation.[3] Therefore, a number of CPL members was backed by Sąjūdis. Other parties were formed just recently and did not enjoy widespread popularity. Of all parties participating only CPL (CPSU) did not support Lithuanian independence.[13]

A total of 522 candidates registered for the election, but 50 dropped out before the election day.[14] Of the remaining 472 candidates, 201 were proposed by the CPL (independent), 139 were nonpartisans, and 79 were listed by CPL (CPSU).[11] After the first round of voting, 90 delegates were elected. In 51 constituencies, the run-off elections were held in early March. Originally scheduled for March 10, the run-off was pushed forward whenever possible so that the Supreme Soviet could meet as soon as possible.[15] Due to low voter turnout (primarily in areas where Polish and Russian minorities concentrated), elections in six constituencies were invalid.[16] In total, 91 out of 135 deputies were endorsed by Sąjūdis. Note that different sources often provide different breakdown between Sąjūdis, nonpartisan, and CPL (independent) delegates as the division was not clear-cut: Sąjūdis did not have formal membership while CPL kept losing its members.[17] CPL (independent), despite internal reforms and push for independence, fared rather poorly.[13] Observers note that the communists ran a passive campaign and lacked personalities that could compete with prominent intellectuals of Sąjūdis.[12] Also, the campaign was framed as a referendum for Lithuania's independence – all those in support were morally obligated to vote for Sąjūdis.[18]

Declaration of independence

Immediately after the first round delegates gathered for semi-formal discussions and consultations. Some of the critical decisions were made during these "tea talks" between the first and second rounds of the election.[19] The Supreme Soviet was to convene as soon as possible and declare independence without delay. The Lithuanians were afraid that during the scheduled assembly of the Congress of People's Deputies on March 12, 1990, Gorbachev would be appointed as the President of the Soviet Union and would gain greater powers within the union.[20] Specifically, Lithuanians feared that Gorbachev would pass a law on secession that would make it virtually impossible to break away from the Soviet Union.[21] At the time of its first gathering on March 10, the final results of the run-off election were not yet available.[14]

During the first session, the delegates elected a commission to verify the election results. As verification was a time consuming process, the Supreme Soviet adjourned until 9 am next morning.[14] On March 11, the Supreme Soviet elected Vytautas Landsbergis, leader of Sąjūdis, as its chairman (91 votes) against Algirdas Brazauskas, leader of CPL, (38 votes).[22] On the same day the Soviet changed its name to the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, re-adopted interwar coat of arms, and passed the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania (124 votes in favor, 6 abstentions, none opposed).[22] It also abolished Soviet constitutions and re-adopted the Lithuanian Constitution of 1938, the last constitution before the Soviet occupation. It was a symbolic move to emphasize legal continuity of the interwar state as the Constitution of 1938 was suspended minutes later and replaced by the Provisional Fundamental Law, based on the Soviet constitution.[23] Thus Lithuania officially declared its independence from the Soviet Union.

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c Popescu, Marina; Martin Hannavy (2002-12-12). "1990 Parliamentary Elections - Soviet". Project on Political Transformation and the Electoral Process in Post-Communist Europe. University of Essex. Archived from the original on 9 July 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  2. ^ Truska (2009), p. 261
  3. ^ a b Vardys (1997), p. 153
  4. ^ a b c Vardys (1997), p. 144
  5. ^ Vardys (1997), p. 151
  6. ^ Senn (1995), p. 76
  7. ^ a b Vardys (1997), p. 152
  8. ^ Senn (1995), pp. 78–80, 83–84
  9. ^ Senn (1995), p. 77
  10. ^ Senn (1995), p. 89
  11. ^ a b Senn (1995), p. 90
  12. ^ a b Laurinavičius (2008), p. 515
  13. ^ a b Vardys (1997), p. 154
  14. ^ a b c "Pirmasis posėdis" (in Lithuanian). Seimas. 1990-03-10. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  15. ^ Laurinavičius (2008), pp. 507, 509
  16. ^ Laurinavičius (2008), p. 507
  17. ^ Laurinavičius (2008), p. 514
  18. ^ Laurinavičius (2008), p. 516
  19. ^ Laurinavičius (2008), pp. 519–520
  20. ^ Senn (1995), p. 91
  21. ^ Vardys (1997), p. 156
  22. ^ a b "Trečiasis posėdis" (in Lithuanian). Seimas. 1990-03-11. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  23. ^ Senn (1995), p. 95

External links