Agrarian contesters claim victory in Lithuania runoff elections

October 24, 2016 11:00 am

Lithuanian Peasant and Green’s Union party Chairman Ramunas Karbauskis speaks to the media in Vilnius, October 23, 2016. (Photo by AP)

The Lithuanian political party representing farmers and environmentalists has claimed victory in runoff parliamentary elections, which saw voters reject the ruling Social Democrats.
The Peasants and Green Union is expected to win over one-third, or precisely 54 seats, in the 141-member house of parliament after the second round of voting, according to preliminary results provided by the Central Electoral Committee on Sunday.
Electoral experts say this is the biggest victory by a single Lithuanian party in 20 years.
The second-place went to Homeland Union-Christian Democrats with 30 seats, while the incumbent ruling party, the Social Democrats, would take 18 seats. The rest went to several smaller parties.
The new coming party, headed by millionaire farmer Ramunas Karbauskis, said it would start negotiations with the center-right Homeland Union and center-left Social Democrats over forming a coalition government on Monday.
Our major challenge is “to stop citizens fleeing ,” Karbauskis, the party’s chairman, told reporters.
In the weeks leading up to the election, the agrarian bloc’s leaders had vowed to stop the flow of emigrants to richer parts of the European Union by reviving the country’s economy.
“Our government will be transparent, responsible, professional and resolute,” announced Saulius Skvernelis, who led the party’s election campaign and is expected to serve as prime minister in the next government.

Saulius Skvernelis, Peasant and Green’s Union party leader (Photo by AFP)

“I think people got fed up” with the incumbent government, Skvernelis said.
Meanwhile, observers say it is difficult to predict whether the new government, which is expected to take over in December, will lean towards the right or left.   
“It’s hard to predict what path the new government will take because the Peasants and Greens’ manifesto is full of contradictions,” said Ramunas Vilpisauskas, head of the Vilnius Institute of International Relations and Political Science.
Since Lithuania joined the  in 2004, an estimated 370,000 people have left the country to work elsewhere across the bloc.
Lithuania was hit hard by the global economic recession in 2009-2010. Like its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Estonia, the country regained independence after splitting from the Soviet Union in 1990.
At the beginning of last year, it adopted the EU’s common currency, euro, which has sharply increased prices while wages and pensions remain among the lowest in the bloc.
The EU is passing through a critical period due to the current refugee crisis, international terror threats, struggling economies and a division among its members.
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