Social Democratic Party of Lithuania
|Vice Chairpeople||Zigmantas Balčytis|
|Executive Secretary||Linas Jonauskas|
|Headquarters||B. Radvilaitės g. 1, Vilnius|
|European affiliation||Party of European Socialists|
|International affiliation||Progressive Alliance|
|European Parliament group||Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats|
|Seats in the Seimas|
8 / 141
|Seats in the European Parliament|
2 / 11
277 / 1,461
15 / 60
The Social Democratic Party of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija, LSDP) is a social-democratic political party in Lithuania. Founded as an underground Marxist organization in 1896, it is the oldest extant party in Lithuania. During the period of Soviet occupation, the party was forced into exile, emerging once again in Lithuania in 1989.
The party's chairman since 2017 is Gintautas Paluckas. The party led a minority government in the unicameral Seimas, Lithuania's Parliament from 2004 to 2008. The party is a member of the Party of European Socialists (PES), the Progressive Alliance, and the Socialist International.
Initial discussions about forming a Marxist political party in Lithuania began early in 1895, with a number of informal gatherings bringing together social democrats of various stripes resulting in a preparatory conference in the summer of that year. Differences in objectives became clear between ethnic Jews and ethnic Lithuanians and Poles, with the former seeing themselves essentially as Russian Marxists while the latter two groups harbored both revolutionary and national aspirations. Moreover, the ethnic Poles and Lithuanians saw themselves divided over the question of alliance with non-Marxist liberals. As a result, not one but three Marxist political organizations would emerge in Lithuania between 1895 and 1897.
The Social Democratic Party of Lithuania (LSDP) was founded on 1 May (19 April O.S.) 1896 at a secret congress held in an apartment in Vilnius. Among the 13 delegates were Andrius Domaševičius and Alfonsas Moravskis — a pair of intellectuals regarded as the central organizers of the new political entity — and the future President of Lithuania, Kazys Grinius, as well as a number of worker activists. Also in attendance as a representative of the radical youth movement was an 18-year-old ethnic Pole named Felix Dzerzhinsky, later the head of the Soviet secret police. As Lithuania was then part of the Russian Empire, the LSDP was inevitably an illegal organization, meeting in secret and seeking to bring about the revolutionary overthrow of the Tsarist regime.
The LSDP was a dual language organization, publishing its illegal newspapers both in Lithuanian and Polish. Newspapers were published abroad, printed in East Prussia (or sometimes Switzerland or France) and smuggled across the border. Technical assistance was occasionally provided by the Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, headed by Julian Marchlewski.
This smuggling of Lithuanian newspapers had historical antecedents. Following the Polish and Lithuanian Uprising of 1863, the Tsarist regime had banned publication of all newspapers which used the Latin alphabet, a measure which amounted to a de facto ban of the entire Lithuanian press. This proscription extended for the rest of the 19th Century; in 1898 of 18 newspapers appearing in Lithuanian, 11 were published by Lithuanians in emigration in America and the other 7 were published in East Prussia.
The LSDP was very nearly obliterated at birth by the Tsarist secret police, which over the course of 1897 to 1899 managed to arrest a number of the party's leading activists. Approximately 280 socialist and trade union organizers were apprehended during this period, with subsequent trials leading to the Siberian exile of more than 40 people, including Domaševičius and Dzerzhinsky. Other top leaders, including Moravskis, were forced to flee the country to avoid being swept up in the Okhrana's dragnet. With the party leadership jailed or chased from the country, the LSDP very nearly ceased to exist as the 19th Century drew to a close.
From 1900 to 1902 the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania began to tentatively rise from the ashes behind a new crop of young revolutionaries. Chief among these were a pair of Lithuanian students in Vilnius, Vladas Sirutavičius and Steponas Kairys.
It was the first Lithuanian political party and one of the major parties who initiated the assembly called Great Seimas of Vilnius in 1905. The party was one of the major political powers during the Lithuanian independence period between 1918 and 1940. Following the election of 1926, the party formed a left-wing coalition government with Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union. This government was dismissed after the 1926 Lithuanian coup d'état. The authoritarian regime of Antanas Smetona banned all political parties in 1936.
Period of Soviet occupation
During the Soviet occupation era, no democratically constituted political parties existed within Lithuania. Therefore, between 1945 and the 1989 restoration of independence, the party was assembled and worked covertly in exile.
In 1989, the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania was restored and Kazimieras Antanavičius was elected to be party's leader. The party had 9 seats in the Supreme Council – Reconstituent Seimas and was not successful in substantially increasing the number in the following elections, with 8 seats won in 1992 and 12 in 1996.
In 1999, the party's congress elected a new leader, Vytenis Andriukaitis and merger negotiations with the reform communist Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania (LDDP) began. Members of the party opposing the merger left to establish "Social democracy 2000" (later renamed "Social Democratic Union of Lithuania"). The coalition led by Social Democrats and LDDP won 51 of the 141 seats in the elections in 2000 (with 19 going to the Social Democrats). However, despite success in the elections, the coalition parties had to settle for a place in the opposition until 2001, when the collapse of the ruling coalition between Liberals and New Union allowed ex-President Algirdas Brazauskas to form the government.
Merge with Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania and afterwards
In 2001, the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania and the Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania (the former Communist Party of Lithuania until 1990) merged. After the merger, Algirdas Brazauskas was elected leader of the Social Democratic Party.
At the 2004 legislative elections, the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania won 20 of the 141 seats in the Seimas, but managed to stay at the helm of successive coalition governments, including the minority government between 2006 and 2008.
Brazauskas resigned as the chairman of the party on 19 May 2007 and was replaced by Gediminas Kirkilas.
At the 2008 elections the party won 11.73% of the national vote and 25 seats in the Seimas, five more than in the previous elections. However, its coalition partners, Labour Party and New Union (Social Liberals) fared poorly and the party ended up in opposition to the Homeland Union-led government.
On 7 March 2009 the party's congress elected a new leader, Algirdas Butkevičius. He was the party's candidate at the Lithuanian presidential election, 2009, coming in second place with 11.83% of the vote.
At the 2012 parliamentary elections, the party took 38 seats and became the largest party in Parliament. Butkevičius became the prime minister, forming a coalition government with the Labour Party, Order and Justice and Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania. At the 2016 parliamentary elections, the party took 21 seats and formed a coalition with Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union.
In 2018, some party members left and formed Social Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania.
|Election year||Votes[a]||%||Seats won||+/–||Government|
13 / 112
11 / 78
8 / 78
15 / 85
|Banished under the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic|
8 / 141
12 / 141
19 / 141
20 / 141
25 / 141
38 / 141
17 / 141
- Proportional representation votes
- Participated in Social-Democratic Coalition of Algirdas Brazauskas (along with Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania, Union of the Russians of Lithuania and New Democracy Party)
- Participated in Coalition "Working for Lithuania" (along with New Union (Social Liberals))
|Election year||# of total votes||% of overall vote||# of seats|
2 / 13
3 / 12
2 / 11
2 / 11
Members of the parliamentSocial Democratic Party of Lithuania won 17 seats in the 2016 election, but the party split in October, 2017. 9 members of the party were subsequently removed from the party.
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- Leonas Sabaliūnas, Lithuanian Social Democracy in Perspective, pp. 25-26.
- Hardline Poles and Lithuanians opposed to cooperation with liberals would establish a party called the Union of Workers in Lithuania in 1896, headed by Stanislaw Trusiewicz. Jewish radicals would launch the General Jewish Labour Bund in Lithuania, Poland and Russia in 1897. See: Sabaliūnas, Lithuanian Social Democracy in Perspective, pp. 26-27 and passim.
- Sabaliūnas, Lithuanian Social Democracy in Perspective, pg. 27.
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