Lithuanians are voting in the second round of national elections, with budget cuts and joining the euro seen as key issues. Polls opened at 07:00 (05:00 GMT), with half the seats being contested. Two centre left parties, the Labour Party and the Social Democrats, finished first and second in the first round on 14 October. PM Andrius Kubilius’ governing conservatives, unpopular for cutting pensions and public wages, came third. Having won 34 seats in the first round, Labour and the Social Democrats hope to win enough of the 67 seats available on Sunday to allow them to form a coalition government.
Lithuania’s 3.3 million inhabitants face an unemployment rate of 13% and declining living standards, as well as high energy costs since the country closed its Soviet-era nuclear power plant in 2009. They voted against government plans to build a new nuclear power station – seen as a way of cutting dependence on imported Russian energy – in a referendum held at the same time as the first round of elections.
Opposition parties had questioned the plant’s affordability. They have promised to improve the ex-Soviet state’s strained relations with Russia, still Lithuania’s biggest trade partner. The populist Labour Party, founded by Russian-born millionaire Victor Uspaskich, won 18 seats in the first round of voting, while the Social Democrats won 16 seats and the ruling Homeland Union 13.