A national education system was organized in 1990. It is compulsory and free schooling from the children from 6 to 7 years until they are 16. The primary school is 4-years old, followed by a 6-year secondary school. The high school is 2 years old. The language of instruction is mainly Lithuanian, but there are also schools where it is taught in Russian, Polish, Belarusian and Yiddish. Some schools teach in several languages. There are private schools next to the public. The country has 15 public, higher education institutions, including 10 universities. The University of Vilnius, founded in 1579, is one of Europe’s oldest universities.
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Brazauskas did not stand for re-election in the December 1997 presidential election. The partyless Valdas Adamkus, with several decades behind as a US citizen, became a new president in 1998. In 1999, political and personal conflict between President Adamkus and Prime Minister Vagnorius led the prime minister to step down. The president said, among other things, that the prime minister had failed to fight corruption in the public sector.
In May, the mayor of Vilnius, Rolandas Paksas, who was then a member of the Federation Union, became the new prime minister. However, he had to retire the same fall and then transitioned to the center party Liberal Union (LLS) where he was elected chairman. He justified the move by disagreeing with the government’s decision to sell the strategically important oil refinery Mažeikių Nafta to a US company.
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At the 2000 election, LSS entered Seimas with a large group and Paksas re-formed government. It burst in the summer of 2001 because of disagreement over economic policy, especially around Paksas’ privatization policy. In July, veteran and Social Democrat Brazauskas was appointed new Prime Minister. In the same year, the LDDP merged with the historic Social Democratic Party, which had been allowed back after Lithuania’s secession from the Soviet Union. The new party was named Lithuania’s Social Democratic Party, LSDP.
In the January 2003 presidential election, Rolandas Paksas surprisingly won the incumbent president, Valdas Adamkus, in the second round of elections. Paksas came under strong political pressure towards the end of 2003 because of charges of corruption and alleged links to the Russian mafia, where he allegedly leaked state secrets. In April 2004, he was put on trial and deposed by the National Assembly – Seimas – and deprived of the right to stand for life. This decision was later criticized both by the country’s Constitutional Court and by the European Court of Human Rights. After Paksas had to step down, Adamkus was again elected president of Lithuania in 2004. He resigned in 2009 and was succeeded by center-right candidate Dalia Grybauskaitė, who won the 2009 and 2014 presidential elections.
There was a political crisis in October 2003. There were rumors that President Paksas had links to organized crime. In April 2004, the National Assembly in Lithuania held court against the president. He was found guilty of violating the constitution in a corruption case. Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas was one of the politicians who fought hard against the president. An extraordinary presidential election was held in June. After two rounds of elections, it became clear that former President Valdas Adamkus – an independent center politician – had won. He took office as new president in mid-July.
Algirdas Brazauskas continued as prime minister after the 2004 election. At that election, nine parties were represented in parliament, the largest being the newly started populist Labor Party.
In the summer of 2006, Prime Minister Brazauskas resigned as prime minister after the Labor Party withdrew from the government coalition. Gediminas Kirkilas took over as prime minister. During the parliamentary elections in the autumn of 2008, the Fatherland Party became the largest party and Andrius Kubilius was appointed prime minister. In 2012, the Social Democrats became the biggest and Algirdas Butkevičius became the new prime minister. After the election for the party Lithuania’s Federation of Farmers and Greens (LVŽS) in 2016, Saulius Skvernelis Prime Minister in coalition with Social Democrats, LSDP. The LSDP broke out of the government in the fall of 2017 after a vote in the district associations. In April 2018, LVŽS formed a new government under Svernelis together with outlaws from the LSDP, which had now formed a new party, Lithuania’s Social Democratic Labor Party, LSDDP.
The financial crisis in 2009 hit Lithuania hard. A dramatic exodus of young people and the unemployed has further affected the country. Around 20 percent of the population has left the country since the early 1990s.