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Lithuania - Election 2008 - Seimas

In the October 2008 parliamentary elections, the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrat Party, widely known as the Conservatives, won a plurality, winning almost twice as many seats (45) as the second-place Social Democrats (25). The National Revival Party, a new party with numerous show business and TV-journalism celebrities in its top ranks, finished third (16 seats).

The political landscape is pluralistic, and characterised by regular shifts between coalitions representing centre right conservative platforms and left to centre platforms. The parliamentary elections in October 2008, witnessed a victory of the conservative Homeland Union Christian Democrats list. Voter turnout was a little over 48 per cent.

Lithuania's opposition party, the Homeland Union, hoped 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 was a runoff for 68 of the 141 seats in parliament.

Lithuania was 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 told reporters he wanted 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 said 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 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.

Results of the October 2008 parliamentary elections, seats per party: Homeland Union Lithuanian Christian Democrats (Tvyns sjunga Lietuvos krikscionys demokratai) 45 seats, Social Democratic Party of Lithuania (Lietuvos socialdemokrat partija) 25, National Resurrection Party (Tautos prisiklimo partija) 16, Order and Justice (Tvarka ir teisingumas) 15, Liberals'Movement of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos liberal sjdis) 11, Coalition Labour Party + Youth (Koalicija Darbo partija + jaunimas) 10, Liberal and Centre Union (Liberal ir centro sjunga) 8, Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (Lietuvos lenk rinkim akcija) 3, Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union (Lietuvos valstiei liaudinink sjunga) 3, New Union (Social Liberals) (Naujoji sjunga (socialliberalai)) 1; Independents 4. The Seimas comprises 141 seats.

The elections brought an end to a minority center-left government led since July 2006 by Social Democratic Party head Gediminas Kirkilas.

The Homeland Union Christian Democrats formed a government with the Liberal Movement and the Liberal Centre Union, two centrist parties, as well as the National Resurrection Party, a political entity founded several months earlier by a television celebrity Mr. Arunas Valinskas. On 27 November 2008, Homeland Union Christian Democrats leader Mr. Andrius Kubilius became Prime Minister -- a post he previously held in 1999-2000. His administration was the fifteenth since Lithuania regained independence.

National Revival founder and leader Arturas Valinskas became Seimas Speaker. Following accusations of corruption and the splitting of the National Revival party, in September 2009 the Seimas removed Valinskas from that position, and First Deputy Speaker Irena Degutiene of the Conservative Party became speaker. Although the government lost its majority in March 2010, when one parliamentarian left the coalition to join an opposition party, a small non-coalition party agreed to support the government on important votes. The ruling coalition had a majority of 71 seats, and the opposition holds 69 seats. The National Revival party merged with the Liberal and Center Union party and lost its name.

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