October 09, 2016 - 4:20 PM
VILNIUS, Lithuania - An agrarian party won the first round of Lithuania's parliamentary election Sunday, setting the stage for a possible change of government in the Baltic country.
The Peasants and Green Party won 20 of the 70 seats up for grabs in a party-list vote, according to preliminary results after most ballots were counted. The conservative Homeland Union-Christian Democrats had 15 seats, followed by the governing Social Democrats with 13 seats.
However, the final outcome was unclear as the other 71 seats are decided in single-seat constituencies, most of which will require a runoff vote on Oct. 23.
Lithuania, the biggest of the three Baltic countries, has struggled to stem emigration since regaining independence in the early 1990s and joining the European Union in 2004.
Both the Social Democrats, which have led a coalition government since 2012, and opposition parties have promised to raise living standards in the country of 2.9 million.
Many Lithuanians complain that prices have gone up since the country introduced the euro, the EU's common currency, in 2015, while salaries have not. The country was hit hard by the global economic meltdown and is just emerging from a recession.
The first round of voting suggested the Social Democrats have lost support since the last election. If the trend continues in the second round a new government is likely to be formed through coalition talks.
Voter turnout in the first round was about 50 per cent.
Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius leads the Social Democrats while the conservatives are led by Gabrielius Landsbergis, who at 34 is trying to become Europe's youngest prime minister. He is the grandson of Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania's first head of state after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.
Ramunas Karbauskis leads the Peasants and Green Party.
Lithuania remains highly suspicious of Russia and tense relations with Moscow are expected to continue regardless of the outcome of the election.
News from © The Associated Press, 2016