Lithuania in the Period of the Rule of the National Party: between authoritarian dictatorship and consolidated democracy Cover Image

Lietuva tautininkų epochoje: tarp autoritarinės diktatūros ir konsoliduotos demokratijos
Lithuania in the Period of the Rule of the National Party: between authoritarian dictatorship and consolidated democracy

Author(s): Marius Kundrotas
Subject(s): History
Published by: Lietuvos edukologijos universitetas
Keywords: democracy; authoritarianism; authoritarian regime; Antanas Smetona; member of the National Party.

Summary/Abstract: Smetona’s regime, which came to power in December, 1926, today is viewed as authoritarian dictatorship without any stipulation or appeal. However, facts suggest that this regime contained elements of a peculiar consolidated democracy. Political system, formed in 1929–1936, followed the pattern of democratic political vertical line from bottom to top. Administrative districts (seniūnijos) elected Councils of rural districts; towns an cities elected their Councils; Councils of rural districts and towns formed regional district Boards which, in their turn, nominated candidates for the Seimas, elected by all citizens. Councils of rural districts, towns and regional districts elected special people’s representatives who elected the President. This way smooth transition of power levels from citizens and concord between governing institutions were guaranteed. When, in 1936, all political parties, except the National Party, were officially dissolved, political variety became limited. Nevertheless, the established election system gave different groups of citizens, despite their political or organizational affiliation, the right to vote. Different political groups retained a possibility to participate actively in the country’s political life through public organizations and the media. Coalition government model, which came into existence in 1939, de facto legitimized multi-party principle at the highest level of authority. Introduction of the democratic political vertical line in 1929–1936, restoration of Parliamentary institutions in 1936 as well as the formation of the coalition government in 1939 could be considered as prerequisites for the tendencies and perspectives for the democratization process. The main human rights for all citizens were ensured by the Constitution, only criminals and the state’s enemies being an exception. Persecutions of those who adhered to other political views were rare, and the cultural and public life of the country did not experience the dictate of the authorities. In addition, the variety of political viewpoints, the right to vote, the authority’s accountability was partially limited, but not abolished. Therefore, the political regime of 1926–1940 could be considered to be the authoritarian one with the elements of democracy or, vice versa, treated as democracy with some authoritarian elements. Taking into consideration the prevailing tendencies, the latter variant seems to be more persuasive.

  • Issue Year: 79/2010
  • Issue No: 3
  • Page Range: 59-68
  • Page Count: 10
  • Language: Lithuanian