Lithuania farmers' party seals coalition deal with leftists
The centrist LPGU farmers' party that scored a surprise victory in October's general election said Tuesday it had sealed a majority coalition deal with the Social Democrats of outgoing premier Algirdas Butkevicius.
The new government will command a solid 73-seat majority in the 141-member parliament in this Baltic NATO and eurozone state of 2.9 million people, that has been plagued by an exodus of workers seeking higher wages abroad, notably in Western Europe.
"We reached agreement on a coalition," LPGU party chief Ramunas Karbauskis said, quoted by the BNS news agency, adding that the deal will formally be inked on Wednesday.
Analysts in Vilnius expect the LPGU to keep Lithuania solidly on its pro-Western track.
After years on the margins of Lithuanian politics, the LPGU won the election on promises of changing a controversial new labour code that makes it easier to hire and fire employees, imposing a state monopoly on alcohol sales, cutting bureaucracy -- and above all, boosting economic growth to halt mass emigration.
Popular in the countryside, the party also owes its success to the stellar popularity of Saulius Skvernelis, a corruption-fighting 46-year-old former national police chief who is its candidate for prime minister.
His squeaky-clean image turned him into Lithuania's hottest political commodity virtually overnight.
Lithuania's economy shrank by nearly 15 percent during the 2008-9 global financial crisis but quickly recovered and is slated to expand by 2.5 percent this year.
- Labour code delay -
A 46-year-old tycoon who earned his fortune in the farming sector, Karbauskis said the new government would wait six months to implement the controversial labour code passed by Butkevicius's Social Democrats this summer.
"It will come into effect when the tripartite commission (employers, government and unions) will reach an agreement," he added.
The Social Democrats are expected to control the justice, economy and foreign ministries in the new cabinet.
It was not immediately clear whether the party's outgoing foreign minister Linas Linkevicius will hang onto his office.
According to Ramunas Vilpisauskas, director of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science in Vilnius, it is still too soon to tell whether the new coalition will last.
"The degree to which each minister will enjoy political independence will be a good indicator" of the coalition's durability, Vilpisauskas told AFP.
Russia's deployment of nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to its Kaliningrad exclave in October jangled nerves in neighbouring Lithuania just as voters were heading to the polls.
But reassurance provided by NATO's beefed up regional presence -- a move that all major parties approve -- meant that voters were more worried about their wallets than security.
© 2016 AFP