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 Labor Party said it would expel any members found guilty of violating the election law amid allegations that some bribed voters during an Oct. 14 round of parliamentary elections that the party won. Police are looking at a video claiming to show prison inmates being offered money in return for voting for the Labor Party, the Prosecutor General’s Office in Vilnius, the capital, said on its website yesterday. The party called for a swift investigation of the allegations. “Media reports that some members of the Labor Party may have bribed voters are casting a shadow on our authority,” the party said on its website today. “If the mentioned facts are confirmed, the chairman of the Labor Party intends personally to propose the expulsion of any members who have broken the law.”
Lithuania: Voters back opposition populists, SocDems, reject nuclear plant plans | The Washington Post
Lithuanians exasperated with economic hardship handed a stunning victory to a populist party led by a disgraced Russia-born millionaire, nearly complete results of Sunday’s election show, while voicing resounding disapproval of plans to build a costly new nuclear power plant. The opposition Labor Party, led by Viktor Uspaskich, once dubbed as the “pickle king” for having made his fortune selling jarred pickles, was leading with 23.4 percent of the vote after nearly three-fourths of precincts was counted.The victory set the stage for a coalition with the Social Democrats, who were second with 19.4 percent, and Order and Justice, a populist party led by Rolandas Paksas, a stunt pilot who eventually became president in 2003 — only to be impeached the following year for violating the Constitution and abuse of office. Paksas’ party was fourth with 9.2 percent.
Austerity-weary Lithuanians are set to eject the country’s ruling centre-right coalition in an election this month, a move likely to delay the moment the small European Union member state joins the euro and to ease ties with Russia. However, the new government, which opinion polls show is likely to be a broad coalition led by the centre-left Social Democrats, is expected to largely stick to austerity as the Baltic state cannot afford to be frozen out of debt markets. “The situation is unbearable, half of Lithuania has emigrated,” said Svetlana Orlovskaya, 65, as she headed to work as a factory cleaner in a suburb of the capital city Vilnius. She said Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, head of a four-party coalition since 2008, had not done “anything good”.
For the first time since regaining independence in 1991, Lithuanians have the opportunity to re-elect the same government formed at elections four years earlier. Yet they are almost certain to reject this chance of political continuity. Frustrated with dismal living standards and a poignant sense of dysfunctional social justice, voters in the Baltic nation are poised to send packing the conservative-led coalition and return opposition centre-leftists and populists to the helm. Such a scenario could, in turn, postpone tentative plans to introduce the euro and affect preparations for Lithuania’s presidency of the European Union’s Council of Ministers in the second half of 2013. Polls indicate that either the Social Democrats, who reigned over Lithuanian politics for more than six years before getting the boot in 2008.
Lithuania will hold a non-binding referendum on the centre-right government’s planned new nuclear power plant on the same day as a parliamentary election, in a move that could boost support for the opposition and derail the project with a big vote against. Parliament’s decision on Monday to hold the vote puts energy issues at the centre of the election, with the opposition and government split on how to reduce country’s energy dependence on its former Soviet master, Russia. Polls have showed public support for nuclear energy in Lithuania wane following the Fukushima disaster in 2011 in Japan, with opinion now roughly divided.