Lithuania holds national vote, coalition talks expected

Full Screen
1 / 18

People wear face masks to protect against coronavirus as they cast their ballots during the parliamentary elections in Vilnius, Lithuania, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. Polls opened Sunday for the first round of national election in Lithuania, where voters will renew the 141-seat parliament and the ruling four-party coalition is widely expected to face a stiff challenge from the opposition to remain in office. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

VILNIUS – Lithuanians voted Sunday in the first round of the parliamentary election in which the electorate will choose 141 national lawmakers, and the ruling four-party coalition is facing a stiff challenge from the opposition.

After polls had closed at 1700 GMT (1 p.m. EDT), Lithuania's Central Electoral Commission said that initial voter turnout stood at 47.16%, which is 3 percentage points lower than in the 2016 election.

Results were expected by early Monday, but the commission said there might be delays in counting because of early voting by citizens and strict coronavirus measures.

Pre-election polls in the Baltic nation showed the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, which now leads the coalition government, marginally ahead of the opposition conservative Homeland Union-Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats, the populist Labor party and the center-right Liberal Movement.

A recent surge in COVID-19 cases, soaring virus-related unemployment and economic challenges are the major issues that have sparked criticism of the current coalition government.

President Gitanas Nauseda came to vote with his wife Diana at a polling station in Vilnius, the capital, and told reporters he hoped for better mutual understanding and cooperation with the new Parliament.

“I wish the next five or several years to be splendid for Lithuania. We have all the opportunities for that,” said Nauseda, who assumed the head of state's post in this European Union and NATO member last year.

He said what the country needed following the election was “a clear vision and strategy.”