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A political party that favors Lithuanian independence from the Soviet Union has been formally recognized by the republic, making it the first legal non-communist party in the country, activists said Saturday.

The new party is the 2,000-member Party of Democrats of Lithuania, which advocates full autonomy for the Baltic republic of 3.7 million people, said Pyatrus Pechelunas, a member of the party presidium.The party supports neither socialism nor capitalism but believes Lithuanians should choose an economic system after the republic achieves independence, he said from the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

Alternative political parties were illegal until early December, when the Lithuanian Parliament eliminated a section of the constitution guaranteeing the supremacy of the Communist Party and substituted a multiparty system for the small republic.

Non-communist parties have cropped up elsewhere in the Soviet Union but remain illegal. Lithuania's Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Estonia, are expected to vote in January on similar constitutional amendments permitting multiple political parties.