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Farmers’ party scores surprise win in Lithuania vote: election official

VILNIUS (AFP) – 

A Lithuanian farmers’ party that previously held only a single seat in parliament scored a surprise victory in Sunday’s general election run-off, ousting the governing leftists and trouncing conservative rivals.

The Lithuanian Peasants and Green Union party (LGPU) won the most seats, with 56 in the 141-member parliament, while the conservative Homeland Union took 30 and outgoing ruling Social Democrats 17, state election commission official Elena Masvenaite told AFP Sunday, citing almost full results.

“We will forge a rational coalition government and we’ll chose people who want to bring about changes,” Saulius Skvernelis, a popular former national police chief who ran as the LPGU’s candidate for prime minister told national TV as the results rolled in.

On the campaign trail he said the party was open to coalition talks with both the opposition conservative Homeland Union of Gabrielius Landsbergis and the Social Democrats of outgoing Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevcius.

“We’ll bring transparent and responsible policies,” vowed the former police chief chief popular for clobbering corruption in the force.

Lithuanians voted overwhelmingly for change, Ramunas Vilpisauskas, director of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science in Vilnius, told AFP Sunday.

“The LPGU will spearhead the coalition. This result means that people really want new faces in politics,” he said, adding candidly that he “didn’t expect it.”

He also said that on the foreign policy front, the LPGU would keep Lithuania firmly rooted in the EU, the eurozone and NATO.

The party, whose official leader Ramunas Karbauskis, is a billionaire industrial farmer and land baron, has promised to boost wages and economic growth in a bid to stem a labour exodus.

© 2016 AFP