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Conservatives Win Lithuanian Parliament Election


Lithuania's opposition conservatives have won the country's parliamentary election, which will give Lithuania its first conservative-led government in seven years. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest.

Lithuania's opposition party, the Homeland Union, hopes to capitalize on voters' fears of energy dependence on nearby Russia, at a time when the economy is slowing in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The Homeland Union, won the most seats in the first round of voting on October 12. The second round is a runoff for 68 of the 141 seats in parliament.

Lithuania is under pressure from the European Union to close its only nuclear power plant by the end of 2009.
The long-ruling Social Democratic-led government of Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas has said closing the plant was a condition for Lithuania to join the EU in 2004.

However, he recently told reporters he wants to re-negotiate the accord.

"We are respecting our agreements, our commitments and we don't want to violate agreements," said Gediminas Kirkilas. "But our proposal is to have some new interpretation. I believe that we will discuss this, and that we will continue our discussions with the European commission [and] with of course the leaders of the [European] goverments."

The editor-in-chief of the Baltic News Service, Arturas Rachas, suggests to Russia Today television that voters believe the government could have done more for energy security.

"It has nothing to do with Lithuanians' commitment to the European Union," said Arturas Rachas. "It has to do only with the government's, I would say, impotence for the few recent years. They did nothing."

Analysts say a planned replacement of Lithuania's power plant, to be built jointly with Estonia, Latvia and Poland, is unlikely to be ready before 2015.

Some voters say they want the next government to ensure the existing plant remains open for the coming years, as it provides 70 percent of the country's energy needs.

The opposition Homeland Union party has also campaigned on economic issues, saying it wants to cut taxes and backs the launch of the euro currency as early as 2011 or 2012.

Commentators say that although the Homeland Union is expected to gain enough seats to form a coalition government, the long-ruling Social Democratic Party could strike a deal with two populist parties in an effort to retain power.

However Homeland Union leader Andrius Kubilius says he believes it will be possible for conservatives to form a new government for the first time in nearly a decade, together with center-right and liberal parties.

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