Center-right opposition claims victory in Lithuania vote, to start coalition talks

October 23, 2016 6:02 PM EDT

A woman casts her vote during a general election run-off in Birzai, Lithuania, October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins


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VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuania's center-right opposition Peasants and Greens party declared victory after a second round of voting in a general election on Sunday and said it would start negotiations with the Homeland Union and Social Democrats over forming a coalition government.

The Peasants and Greens won 54 seats in the 141-member parliament, making it the biggest party, results published by the Lithuanian election commission showed.

"Our government will be transparent, responsible, professional and resolute," Saulius Skvernelis, the man who led the party's election campaign and is now its candidate to be the next prime minister, told Reuters.

The result is likely to mean that Lithuania's prime minister will come from a party other than the centre-left Social Democrats or the center-right Homeland Union for the first time in 15 years.

"I think people got fed up," Skvernelis said.

He said the Peasants and Greens will begin negotiations with both the Homeland Union and the Social Democrats on Monday to form a coalition.

The winning party, headed by wealthy businessman Ramunas Karbauskis, was an also-ran in previous elections, but its promises of a government of technocrats that it would stop the flow of emigrants to richer parts of the European Union have won over many Lithuanians worried about sluggish economic growth.

Growth, currently at an annual level of two to three percent, is less than half of stellar rates a decade ago and there is growing concern the country will not be able to catch up with the richer parts of Europe.

The population has shrunk to 2.9 million from 3.3 million a decade ago.

"I don't know an area where the current government policy does not need to be changed," Karbauskis told journalists on Sunday evening. "Except in foreign policy, where we need to have a continuation."

In the weeks leading up to election, Karbauskis said a Peasants and Greens government would take a more active role in the economy, among other things by creating a monopoly on alcohol sales and establishing a state-owned bank to compete with commercial ones.

He also said his party would not give legal recognition to same-sex couples.

"It's hard to predict what path the new government will take because the Peasants and Greens' manifesto is full of contradictions," Ramunas Vilpisauskas, head of the Vilnius Institute of International Relations and Political Science told Reuters.

A new government is expected to take over from the current coalition of the Social Democrats, Labour and Order and Justice parties in early December.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Simon Johnson; Editing by Sandra Maler)



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