VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Lithuania’s opposition conservative Homeland Union party claimed victory Monday in the first round of the country’s general election, winning 23 seats in 141-seat parliament as the center-right opposition appears on track to win the vote, defeating the ruling four-party coalition.
The Farmers and Greens Union, which forms the backbone of the Baltic nation’s current ruling coalition, finished second with 16 seats outright and many fewer candidates making it into the second round of voting being held on Oct. 25.
Two liberal parties — the Freedom Party and the Liberal Movement — considered likely allies in a future center-right coalition, claimed a total of 14 seats. The center-left Labour party won 9 seats and the Social Democrats got 8. Six parties will be represented in the Seimas parliament, according to initial results.
Three candidates in single-member constituencies claimed victory in the first round of voting including the former finance minister and one of the Homeland Union’s leaders, Ingrida Simonyte, a former candidate for president who oversaw drastic austerity cuts during the global financial crisis. She could likely be the country’s next prime minister.
Under Lithuania’s election system, the remaining 68 lawmakers will be elected in a proportional vote on Oct. 25.
“We choose the path of consolidation and cooperation, not the one of drawing lines and confrontation,” the young leader of conservatives, Gabrielius Landsbergis, said at a press conference Monday.
He is the grandson of Lithuanian independence leader Vytautas Landsbergis, who was the Baltic country’s first president.
Lithuania has kept up strong democratic traditions since regaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. It has also played a major role as the protests in neighboring Belarus unfold against that nation’s authoritarian leader.
The southernmost Baltic country of less than 3 million has seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. So far Lithuania has seen 5,500 confirmed coronavirus cases and just above 100 deaths. The center-right coalition government has faced strong criticism over soaring virus-related unemployment.