Lithuanian centre-right opposition claims victory in general election

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister and presidential candidate Skvernelis speaks to media during the first round of Lithuanian presidential election in Vilnius

By Andrius Sytas

VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuania's main centre-right opposition Homeland Union party said it won the general election and will begin forming a new government with two smaller liberal parties, which together have a majority vote in the 141-seat parliament.

"At this moment it seems, that we will have a bit more than half votes in the parliament", said Ingrida Simonyte, who would lead the government, told reporters.

Homeland Union, with roots in the 1980s anti-Soviet independence movement, won 49 seats and together with Liberal Movement and Freedom Party were on track for a majority of 73 votes in the 141-seat parliament, according to provisional results.

The ruling Farmers and Greens party (LVZS), an agrarian group leading Skvernelis' coalition, won 32 votes.

The leader of LVZS, Ramunas Karbauskis, conceded defeat, telling reporters: "If we no longer need to pull the cart that we've been pulling, our lives will get better".

The Baltic Sea state of less than 3 million people has fared relatively well in the coronavirus crisis, though cases have spiked of late as elsewhere around Europe.

But Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has faced criticism for failing to create more jobs and stop debt mounting.

"The biggest immediate issue for the new government will dealing with the COVID outbreak, whether it is brave enough to impose an immediate lockdown", said Kestutis Girnius, an associate professor at Vilnius Institute of International Relations and Political Science.

The new government is unlikely to change foreign or defence policy, but will be more pro-business and is unlikely to keep increasing social payouts, he added.

Simonyte was finance minister in a previous Homeland Union government, which lost power in 2012 after one of Europe's harshest austerity programmes, which caused a collapse in GDP of about 15% in 2009.

The party failed to regain a footing in 2016, when LVZS, led by a wealthy businessman Karbauskis, won over many Lithuanians worried about sluggish economic growth.

Lithuania has reported 10,184 coronavirus infections, including a record 603 new cases on Sunday, three times more than on Sunday two weeks ago. The death toll stood at 134.

(Reporting By Andrius Sytas; Editing by Diane Craft)

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