27 Oct 2008

Social Democrats ousted in Lithuanian election

3:45 pm on 27 October 2008

Lithuania's main centre-right party was to start tough coalition talks on Monday after winning the parliamentary election.

The vote in the ex-Soviet state ended seven years of Social Democrat rule amid anger over double-digit inflation and fears the global credit crunch and financial crisis could hit growth and jobs.

Lithuania has been a European Union and NATO member since 2004, and eventually wants to enter the euro zone. The outgoing government said this would be possible in 2011, but the slowing economy is a challenge to that goal.

"We see a possibility to work together," said Andrius Kubilius, leader of the victorious Homeland Union-Christian Democrat Party, referring to potential coalition partners.

He spoke after the second round of a parliamentary election on Sunday showed the Homeland Union winning a further 26 seats to add to 18 from the first round two weeks ago.

The total of 44 seats meant it was well short of a majority in the 141-seat parliament and needing coalition partners.

The centre-left Social Democrats came second after both rounds with 26 seats, but Homeland Union has said it will not form a government with its rivals.

Mr Kubilius is to hold talks with the National Resurrection Party, led by a television talent show host, which won 16 seats despite being formed only a few months ago.

He was also to include two smaller centre-right groups -- the opposition Liberal Movement and the Liberal and Centre Union, which was part of the outgoing coalition. They together won 19 seats.

Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, leader of the Social Democrats, said the best government would be a "rainbow coalition" with Homeland Union, despite the latter's objections.