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Lithuania's Center-Right Set For Election Win

Lithuania's center-right party, the opposition Homeland Union, looks set to become the largest single party in the next parliament. Final results will be dependent on a second round.

Man putting ballot in ballot box watched by child

Lithuanians were voting in an unusual double poll

A new party led by TV talent show host Arunas Valinskas came in a surprise second in the portion of the vote run under proportional representation (PR).

Rising Nation, or the "Showbiz Party" as it is dubbed, took approximately 15 percent of votes for party lists, compared to the Homeland Union's 19 percent of the PR vote.

This means Rising Nation could hold the balance of power when it comes to negotiations about possible coalitions. It is something of an unknown quantity.

Lithuanians stand in line to cast their ballots in a double poll at a voting station in Vilnius, Lithuania

The 48 percent turnout was actually better than predicted

The Social Democratic party of incumbent Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas came fourth with 12 percent -- one percentage point behind the Order and Justice party of former president Rolandas Paksas in the vote for the lists.

The line-up will not be clear until after a second run-off for single mandate constituencies on Oct. 26. Sunday's vote failed to deliver a clear result, but indicated that the Social Democratic Party had put on a stronger showing than in the PR element of the elections.

Economic reforms on the horizon?

The vote took place amid anger over double digit inflation and fears about the impact of the current global financial crisis. Fears of a newly emergent Russia also played a role in the vote. The Homeland Union is the party that is most suspicious of the Kremlin.

Women read election posters in Vilnius

The results so far suggest tough coalition talks ahead

The man who looks most likely to be Lithuania's next prime minster, the center-right party leader Andrius Kubilius, said he wanted to put real reforms ahead of political horse trading.

"We're feeling good but not celebrating yet, because in our experience it's only halfway down the road," Kubilius told German news agency DPA on Sunday.

"We hope that during the second part, voters will decide the same way about our reform plans, because Lithuania really needs them."

"Maybe we will introduce new amendments to corporate profit taxes, especially not taxing profits which are reinvested in new technology. Besides that we also want to solve problems with budget revenues," the Homeland Union party leader said.

"One thing we propose is to abolish all exemptions in VAT and all other taxes, which will allow us to have additional revenues," he said.

Kubilius was highly critical of the current coalition government. "The government really failed to achieve any results. The situation is simply worsening," he said.

Voters more united over the nuclear issue

The Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in Lithuania.

Without Ignalina, Lithuania fears price hikes and power shortages

A referendum on extending the life of the Soviet-era Ignalina nuclear plant was also held on Sunday, despite Lithuania having accepted EU demands that it be closed in 2009 -- a condition of its joining the bloc in 2004.

Lithuanians overwhelmingly voted in favor of delaying the shutdown of the controversial plant that provides 70 percent of their power. But turnout did not meet the 50 percent requirement.

The goal of the referendum had been to try to strengthen Vilnius's hand as it attempted to convince its 26 fellow EU members to let it push back the closure deadline to 2012.

EU officials have already dismissed these hopes as "dreaming," saying that the bloc was "ready to help Lithuania, but not to breach the treaty."

A planned replacement for the plant, to be built jointly with Estonia, Latvia and Poland, is unlikely to be ready before 2015 -- with some experts suggesting that 2017-2020 is more likely.

Polticians fear that an energy gap will increase Lithuania's dependency on Russia and could ruin the economy.

Ignalina, which opened in 1983, is the same kind of plant as Chernobyl, the site of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986.

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