October 23, 2016 / 11:12 AM / 3 years ago

Lithuania goes to polls with center-right opposition set to win power

Lithuania's Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius speaks to the media during general election in Vilnius, Lithuania, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuanians began voting on Sunday in an election run-off in the European Union member state with the center-right opposition likely to oust the current coalition which has failed to rejuvenate the country’s sluggish economy.

The opposition Homeland Union party and Lithuanian Peasants and Greens parties won 40 seats between them in the first round of the election and are projected to end up with 60 to 102 seats in the 141-member parliament after regional run-offs, data on the state election commission’s website showed.

“I think there is a 70 percent (probability) that we will be in opposition”, Social Democrat prime minister Algirdas Butkevicius told reporters after casting his vote on Sunday.

The opposition says it will boost foreign investment in the former Soviet republic and tackle emigration to wealthier parts of the European Union. Lithuania’s population has shrunk to 2.9 million from 3.3 million a decade ago.

The first round of the election determined around half the seats in parliament based on proportional representation. The second round, which elects the second half of the parliament, is a regional run-off between the top two candidates in regions where no candidate got above 50 percent of the vote.

The center-left Social Democrat party, which leads the current government, is on course to be the third largest party in the new parliament, paying the price for failing to breathe life into an economy that has struggled to catch up with the richer countries in Europe, analysts said.

The Lithuanian Peasants and Greens party, also-rans in past elections, has attracted large numbers of protest votes while the Homeland Union was ejected from power in the previous national election in 2012 after implementing unpopular austerity measures.

Reporting By Andrius Sytas; Editing by Ros Russell

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