Role of Lithuanian Popular Peasants‘ Union at Constituent Assembly of Lithuania (1920–1922) in Laying Foundations for Political Democracy in Lithuania
Keywords:valstiečiai liaudininkai, demokratija, Steigiamasis Seimas, Mykolas Sleževičius, Kazys Grinius
The article outlines activities of the bloc of the Popular Peasants‘ Union at the Constituent Assembly (1920–1922) in doing the groundwork for the democratic regime in the State: drafting and enacting constitutional legislation, including the first democratic Constitution of 1922; participating in the coalition government formed by Kazys Grinius (from 19- 06-1920 to 02-02-1922), verifying operation of provisions of the political agenda in practice. Discussing this subject – already scrutinised in historical literature quite in detail – is aimed at disclosing certain underestimated circumstances which destined the failure of cooperation between the two most influential political blocs, namely the Christian Democrats and the Popular Peasants‘ Union. It resulted in the fall of the coalition government, and a refusal of the Popular Peasants‘ Union to vote in favour of the Constitution of 1922 which had an adverse effect on the subsequent development of democracy in Lithuania. Consenting to the view established in historiography that attitudes of those two political powers towards majority of the issues pertaining to creation of the State were very similar, the author of the article claims that the provisions of the agenda of the Popular Peasants‘ Union oriented towards pursuit of an ideal model of democracy determined a position of insufficient trade-off and even a dogmatic standpoint regarding certain issues (necessity of the institution of President, assessment of relations between the State and the Church) in the process of drafting and enacting the Constitution of 1922, in forming and preserving the coalition government, especially when the said provisions did not receive the required support from the public. Such position was conditioned by a more radical wing which gained advantage inside the bloc of the Popular Peasants‘ Union from the very beginning of work of the Constituent Assembly. The popular view in historiography imputing liability for the fallen coalition and allegedly insufficiently democratic content of the Constitution exclusively to the Christian Democrats should also be corrected.