Lt

On refusing to consider a petition

 

 

THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 

DECISION

ON REFUSING TO CONSIDER THE PETITION OF THE SUPREME ADMINISTRATIVE COURT OF LITHUANIA, THE PETITIONER, REQUESTING AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE COMPLIANCE OF ARTICLE 15 OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA’S LAW ON THE FUNDING AND CONTROL OVER THE FUNDING OF POLITICAL PARTIES AND POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS WITH THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 

15 January 2015, No. KT4-S3/2015

Vilnius

 

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed of the Justices of the Constitutional Court: Elvyra Baltutytė, Vytautas Greičius, Danutė Jočienė, Pranas Kuconis, Gediminas Mesonis, Vytas Milius, Egidijus Šileikis, Algirdas Taminskas, and Dainius Žalimas

The court reporter—Daiva Pitrėnaitė

The Constitutional Court, in its procedural sitting, considered petition No. 1B-64/2014 of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, the petitioner.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

1. The Constitutional Court has received a petition of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether “Article 15 (wording of Law No. XI-813 of 18 May 2010) of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on the Funding and Control over the Funding of Political Parties and Political Campaigns, insofar as it does not provide for the right of a new political party established as a result of reorganisation, after it takes over the rights and duties of the reorganised political party, to receive (take over the right to) the respective share of state budget appropriations, is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 29, Paragraph 2 of Article 34, and Paragraphs 1 and 3 of Article 35 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law”.

2. The petitioner applied to the Constitutional Court regarding the compliance of the impugned legal regulation with the Constitution after suspending the consideration of an administrative case where it had been deciding the issue of the lawfulness of Items 5 and 6 of the Decision (No. Sp-124) “On Establishing the Size of State Budget Appropriations for Funding the Activities of Political Parties in the Second Half of 2013” of the Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Lithuania of 9 September 2013. Items 5 and 6 of the aforesaid decision prescribed that the amount of state budget appropriations allocated in the second half of 2013 for funding the activities of the Labour Party was to be paid to a new Labour Party (Labourists) established as a result of reorganisation through merger. In the aforementioned administrative case, the petitioner has raised the question whether the Labour Party (Labourists) has the right to receive the amount of state budget appropriations allocated to the Labour Party.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

1. The Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, the petitioner, requests an investigation into the compliance of Article 15 of the Law on the Funding and Control over the Funding of Political Parties and Political Campaigns (wording of 18 May 2010) (hereinafter also referred to as the Law), insofar as it does not provide for the right of a new political party established as a result of reorganisation, after it takes over the rights and duties of the reorganised political party, to receive the respective share of state budget appropriations, with the Constitution.

2. Article 15 “The Procedure for Calculating the Size of, as well as for Distributing and Paying, State Budget Appropriations for Funding the Activities of Political Parties” of the Law, inter alia, prescribes:

1. Political parties that are registered with the Register of Legal Entities in accordance with the procedure laid down by law and meet the requirements established by law regarding the number of members of a political party, and against which no restructuring or liquidation procedure has been instituted, shall be entitled to state budget appropriations for funding the activities of political parties.

2. State budget appropriations for funding the activities of political parties shall be distributed to those political parties satisfying the criteria set out in Paragraph 1 of this Article that have received not less than 3 percent of all the votes cast by voters for the candidates of political parties in those elections to the Seimas, municipal councils, and the European Parliament according to the results of which these state budget appropriations are distributed.

3. State budget appropriations for funding the activities of political parties shall be distributed according to the valid results of the elections to the Seimas, municipal councils, and the European Parliament (rerun election, new election, and runoff voting) where the powers of the elected candidates have not ceased or, if these powers have ceased, a vacant place has been occupied without holding elections <...>”

Article 15 of the Law, which is impugned by the petitioner, inter alia, establishes the conditions that must be satisfied by a political party in order to receive state budget appropriations for funding its activity: a political party must be registered with the Register of Legal Entities, must comprise the number of members that is required by law, may not be undergoing restructuring or liquidation, and needs to have received not less than 3 percent of all the votes cast by voters in the election according to the results of which state budget appropriations are distributed. Thus, Article 15 of the Law makes it clear that state budget appropriations may not be granted to: political parties against which a restructuring or liquidation procedure has been instituted, also political parties that have received less than 3 percent of all the votes cast by voters in the elections according to the results of which state budget appropriations are distributed.

3. In the petition, the petitioner indicates that, under Article 15 of the Law, state budget funds are allocated to fund the operating political parties whose activity is not envisaged to be terminated; thus, state budget funds are not allocated to those political parties whose activity is envisaged to cease without a takeover of their rights and duties (in the event of liquidation) or to lose the status of a political party (in the event of restructuring). The petitioner also points out that “a reorganisation procedure is not indicated among the specified cases (precluding political parties from claiming any share of state budget appropriations); thus, the circumstance that a reorganisation procedure has been instituted against a certain political party (provided the party satisfies the other conditions established in the aforementioned law) does not constitute a ground for not granting state budget funds to that political party; this implies that the legislature saw sense in providing for the allocation of a respective share of state budget funds to a political party undergoing reorganisation”.

In the petition, it is maintained that “under <...> the provisions of the Civil Code and the Law on Political Parties <...>, a new party established as a result of reorganisation takes over the rights and duties of the reorganised political party whose activity has ceased”.

At the same time, it is indicated in the petition that the legislature, through the impugned legal regulation, “has explicitly laid down that the right to a certain share of state budget appropriations is granted to concrete political parties that meet the requirements set for political parties and that (as such) have participated in the indicated elections and received a significant (in the sense of Paragraph 2 of Article 15 of the aforementioned law—sufficient) confidence of voters”. It is also maintained that “a newly formed party is unequivocally identified by the public with the reorganised party that has ceased its activity, <...> the members of the latter party (including members who received a significant confidence of voters in the respective election, were elected to the respective office, and, following the reorganisation of the political party, continue holding office in the respective representative institution) continue their membership in the new party formed as a result of reorganisation”. In the petition, nevertheless, it is also contended that “a political party that has participated in the respective election and received a significant support of voters (which creates preconditions for receiving a certain share of state budget appropriations), in the event of the cessation of its activity following reorganisation, loses the right to the said share of state budget appropriations (since it is removed from the Register of Legal Entities and ceases to exist, thus it no longer meets the requirements of Paragraph 1 of Article 15 of the Law); while, in its turn, a new political party that has been established as a result of reorganisation and takes over the rights and duties of the aforesaid political party (e.g., in the event of reorganisation through merger) does not acquire any right to the aforementioned share of state budget appropriations, since this new party, as such, has not participated in the election (i.e. it does not meet the requirements of Paragraph 2 of Article 15 of the Law)”.

4. It should be noted that the aforementioned statements of the petitioner make it clear that the doubts regarding the impugned legal regulation have, in substance, arisen in relation to the respective application of the legal regulation in question.

The petitioner has no doubts as to the fact that, according to the established legal regulation, a new political party formed as a result of reorganisation through merger takes over the rights and duties of the former political parties; however, at the same time, the petitioner maintains that such a new political party does not take over the right to receive state budget appropriations because it has not participated in the election. The petitioner does not provide any legal arguments why, in its opinion, a political party that has been reorganised through merger and meets the conditions specified in Article 15 of the Law (i.e. it is registered with the Register of Legal Entities and comprises a sufficient number of members) may not receive the respective state budget appropriations if the aforesaid provision of the Law clearly provides that the appropriations in question are not granted to political parties only in the event of their liquidation or restructuring (when their legal status is changed).

Thus, it should be held that, in the petition, the petitioner raises the question whether a new political party that is established as a result of reorganisation through merger and takes over the rights and duties of the merging parties has the right to receive a respective share of state budget appropriations that could have been received by one of the merging political parties. In addition, the arguments set out in the petition make it clear that the petitioner seeks a clarification as to whether a new political party established as a result of reorganisation through merger should be viewed as meeting other conditions set in Article 15 of the Law in order to receive state budget appropriations (inter alia, whether such a political party may be regarded as having the required confidence of the public in order to receive the said appropriations, i.e. whether it should be regarded as having received not less than 3 percent of all the votes cast by voters for the candidates in the respective election). Consequently, the petitioner has, in fact, doubted not as to the compliance of the impugned legal regulation, laid down in Article 15 of the Law, with the Constitution, but as to its construction and application in practice.

5. The Constitutional Court has held on more than one occasion that, under the Constitution and the Law on the Constitutional Court, it does not decide questions concerning the application of legal acts, also that such questions are decided by the institution that has the powers to apply legal acts; if laws contain obscurities, ambiguities, or gaps, it is the duty of the legislature to eliminate them (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s decision of 5 September 2011, its ruling of 18 April 2012, its decisions of 11 May 2012, 25 June 2012, and 17 June 2014). The issues of the application of law that have not been decided by the legislature are a matter of judicial practice (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 9 July 1998, its decisions of 20 November 2006, 6 September 2007, and 12 September 2007, its ruling of 18 April 2012, and its decisions of 11 May 2012 and 17 June 2014). Petitions requesting the construction as to how the provisions of a law (or another legal act) must be applied do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court (the Constitutional Court’s decisions of 23 September 2002, 20 November 2006, 2 July 2010, 16 November 2010, 5 September 2011, and 17 June 2014).

6. Under Item 2 of Paragraph 1 of Article 69 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, the Constitutional Court, by its decision, refuses to consider petitions requesting an investigation into the compliance of a legal act with the Constitution if the consideration of the petition does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court.

7. In the light of the foregoing arguments, the conclusion should be drawn that there is a ground for refusing to accept for consideration the petition of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether Article 15 of the Law, insofar as it does not provide for the right of a new political party established as a result of reorganisation, after it takes over the rights and duties of the reorganised political party, to receive the respective share of state budget appropriations, is not in conflict with the Constitution.

Conforming to Paragraphs 3 and 4 of Article 22, Article 28, Item 2 of Paragraph 1 and Paragraph 2 of Article 69 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania adopts the following

decision:

To refuse to accept for consideration the petition of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether “Article 15 (wording of Law No. XI-813 of 18 May 2010) of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on the Funding and Control over the Funding of Political Parties and Political Campaigns, insofar as it does not provide for the right of a new political party established as a result of reorganisation, after it takes over the rights and duties of the reorganised political party, to receive (take over the right to) the respective share of state budget appropriations, is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 29, Paragraph 2 of Article 34, and Paragraphs 1 and 3 of Article 35 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law”.

This decision of the Constitutional Court is final and not subject to appeal.

Justices of the Constitutional Court:       Elvyra Baltutytė

                                                                            Vytautas Greičius

                                                                            Danutė Jočienė

                                                                            Pranas Kuconis

                                                                            Gediminas Mesonis

                                                                            Vytas Milius

                                                                            Egidijus Šileikis

                                                                            Algirdas Taminskas

                                                                            Dainius Žalimas