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Elections on Trial Project: Inaugural Meeting of the Europe and Eurasia Electoral Jurisprudence Working Group
IFES is working to establish peer networks in Europe and Eurasia and Africa, supported by the United States Agency for International Development. Regional knowledge exchange allows judges and election commissioners to discuss best practices and share comparative examples of how other countries deal with specific categories of complaints and disputes.
Lithuania has rapidly developed both politically and economically since emerging from the Soviet Union in 1991. While the country has built a functioning parliamentary system of government, has become a member of NATO, and is on the verge of joining the European Union, it still faces many problems associated with the many consolidating democracies around the world. As in all democracies, populations need to trust that those they elect will represent their interests. Problems such as corruption, weaknesses in laws concerning the political financing, and unaccounted for political income and expenditures threaten the credibility of the process and hinder the speed at which democracy is consolidated. Additionally, Lithuania lacks the high level of vibrant debate about the issue of political financing among scholars, journalists and civil society bodies required to promote meaningful reform. Recognizing this, Lithuania has developed an independent Central Electoral Committee (CEC) and adopted laws requiring detailed and public disclosure of political finance accounts. Prior to conducting Money and Politics programming in Lithuania, the CEC had made a demonstrable interest in making information public. While scanning summary report of accounts and placing them on the internet, the user could not search, not easily compare and analyze the information. Interested parties were required to make an appointment to view more detailed, paper-based information. Further, while the Tax Authorities are required to audit final political party reports, enforcement is widely considered to be weak. Few, if any, cases of political finance violations have been forwarded and investigated, not to mention prosecuted. By addressing the difficult issues surrounding political finance with the support of IFES in 2002 and 2003, Lithuania is emerging as a model for other consolidating democracy to follow. Significant areas remain to be addressed. While Lithuania has taken concrete steps to reform political finance legislation, open political finance information to public scrutiny and oversight, and encourage debate, further efforts are required to actively enforce laws and regulations and raise the level of debate among the various governmental, legislative, and civil society groups. By addressing these areas, Lithuania has the potential for being an example of best practices while making local expertise and resources to other countries undergoing similar reforms.
December 31, 2002