Lithuania opposition eyes power in run-off election | News | DW | 23.10.2016
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Lithuania opposition eyes power in run-off election

Lithuania's left-wing government is fighting for survival after round two of a general election. Even as he voted, the Baltic nation's leftist Social Democrat premier conceded that defeat was imminent.

Opposition conservative Gabrielius Landsbergis was poised Sunday to lead Lithuania's next government after voters frustrated by low wages and a brain drain to west Europe wound up a two-round election.

The 34-year-old grandson of a Lithuanian independence icon had campaigned on promises to raise living standards for the country of 2.9 million.

Prior to the close of the poll, analysts said the likely "kingmaker" was Saulius Skvernelis, a former police chief who has the backing of the centrist Lithuanian Peasants and Green Union party (LPGU).

Complicated coalition talks are expected in the coming days as three smaller parties entered parliament in the first round of voting held on October 9.

Overseeing those talks will be Lithuania's non-aligned President Dalia Grybauskaite who has already said she favors "changes."

Regional runoffs

At stake Sunday were 68 seats or about half of the 141 seats in Lithuania's parliament.

Lithauen Vilnius - Parlamentswahl - Algirdas Butkevicius (picture alliance/AP Photo/M. Kulbis)

Facing 'defeat': Butkeviscius and his Social Democrats

Casting his ballot in Vilnius Sunday, incumbent Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius acknowledged that his Social Democrats faced "a kind of defeat."

"I think there is a 70 percent [probability] that we will be in opposition," he told reporters.

Turnout Sunday was reported to have reached 50 percent among 2.5 million potential voters, three hours before polls closed.

In the first round of the proportional representative ballot, Butkevicius' ruling Social Democrats ended up placing third.

Out front had been Landsbergis' Homeland Union-Christian Democrats, followed in second by the agrarian Peasants and Green Union.

Worker exodus

Like Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania became independent as the Soviet Union collapsed, but has since lost a quarter of its population, once at 3.7 million.

An estimated 370,000 workers have left for other EU nations since 2004 when Lithuania joined the European Union.

Seeking higher wages, nearly half headed for Britain which is now embroiled in Brexit and anti-immigrant sentiment.

Butkevicius had promised further increases to the minimum wage and public sector salaries. 

Lithuania's average wage of just over 600 euros ($670) per month, after tax, remains one of the lowest within the 28-nation EU.

ipj/jlw (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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