Women Lead Opposition to Victory in Lithuanian General Elections

Lithuania’s government was kicked out by voters, clearing the path for a center-right coalition of three parties all led by women.

The second round of the Baltic nation’s general election on Sunday delivered a victory for the opposition Homeland Union, which secured 50 of parliament’s 141 seats. Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis’s Farmers and Greens Union fell short with 32 after a string of scandals and amid surging Covid-19 infections.

Homeland is likely to team up with the Liberal Movement and the newly formed Freedom Party -- producing an all-female-led lineup that contrasts with the exclusively male cabinet that was in charge for an eight-month period in 2019. The three parties said they’re starting negotiations with Homeland leader Ingrida Simonyte, a former finance minister, as the next prime minister.

“There are many issues that need to be resolved quickly, including the budget and the virus situation,” Simonyte said. “The situation doesn’t provide much peace of mind.”

Homeland is meeting President Gitanas Nauseda on Monday about forming a new government. The new parliament, where Homeland, Liberal Movement and the Freedom Party have 74 seats, will convene in mid-November.

Women Lead Opposition to Victory in Lithuanian General Elections

The election took place with Lithuania’s economy outperforming most of the European Union following spring’s lockdown to stave off the pandemic. New cases are at record levels, however, and voters had to stand more than a meter apart, cover their faces and bring their own pens.

Homeland said it wants more transparency and science-based decisions in handling Covid-19. Even so, Simonyte pledged wider policy continuity, saying the “key message is that there won’t be any revolutions” and the next parliament won’t overturn every decision made by the current government.

“This election is the best thing that could happen to Lithuania in this very complicated period,” ex-President Dalia Grybauskaite said on Facebook. “Three parties were led to victory by women. Women aren’t afraid to take responsibility in difficult times.”

The ballot came as the country of 2.8 million people plays a greater role in EU politics. Emmanuel Macron recently became the first French president to visit in almost two decades as Lithuania helped ram through sanctions against neighboring Belarus, whose main opposition leader fled to Vilnius after a brutal crackdown at home. The Homeland Union pledged to keep the same course in the country’s foreign policy.

The likely new governing parties campaigned on improving education standards after a third of high-school students failed a math-graduation exam. They found support among urban voters unhappy at the incumbent administration meddling in everything from central-bank independence to the judiciary.

Despite being part of the government that implemented brutal austerity in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, Simonyte proved popular among voters after an unsuccessful run for the presidency last year put her in the spotlight.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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