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Lithuanian farmers' party in shock election triumph

Lithuanian farmers' party in shock election triumph

PanARMENIAN.Net - Lithuanians fed up with low wages and a labour exodus voted for major changes in Sunday's general election, handing victory to a farmers' party that previously held just one seat in parliament, AFP reports.

The centrist Lithuanian Peasants and Green Union party (LGPU) won 54 seats in the 141-member parliament, while the conservative Homeland Union took 31 and outgoing ruling Social Democrats 17, the state election commission told AFP Sunday, October 23 citing full results.

Three other small parties also entered parliament.

Lithuanians voted overwhelmingly for change, Ramunas Vilpisauskas, director of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science in Vilnius, told AFP.

"The LPGU will spearhead the coalition. This result means that people really want new faces in politics," he said, adding candidly that he "didn't expect it."

He also said that on the foreign policy front, the LPGU would keep Lithuania firmly rooted in the EU, the eurozone and NATO.

"We will forge a rational coalition government and we'll chose people who want to bring about changes," Saulius Skvernelis, a popular former national police chief who ran as the LPGU's candidate for prime minister said on national TV as the results rolled in.

He said the party was opening coalition talks with both the Homeland Union and the Social Democrats of outgoing Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevcius.

Popular in the countryside, the LPGU's official leader is Ramunas Karbauskis, a billionaire industrial farmer and land baron.

He has raised the idea of a "grand coalition" of all parties in parliament creating a technocratic government focused on economic growth.

Wage growth and job creation were key election issues the country of 2.9 million people, plagued by an exodus of workers seeking higher wages abroad.

Since Lithuania joined the European Union in 2004, an estimated 370,000 people have left -- nearly half to Britain, where concern over immigration from eastern Europe was a key factor in June's shock referendum vote to leave the bloc.

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