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Lithuania election: Soaring unemployment the big issue ahead of Sunday poll

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By Daniel Bellamy  with AP
Lithuania election: Soaring unemployment the big issue ahead of Sunday poll
Copyright  AFP

Voters in the Baltic state of Lithuania will choose a new parliament on Sunday as the centre-right coalition government faces strong criticism over soaring unemployment.

The Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, the party that leads a majority coalition with three smaller partners, hopes to remain in power.

Pre-election polls show it's marginally ahead but it's not expected to win outright and talks on forming a coalition are widely expected after Sunday.

A second round of voting has been set for Oct. 25 in constituencies in case no candidate gets a majority.

Many Lithuanians complain that their government failed to do enough for businesses during the coronavirus lockdown.

Unemployment has jumped from 9 percent in February to more than 14 percent in October.

The recent sharp rise in virus infections as well as new restrictions may force many to stay at home, which would affect the turnout among the 2.4 million registered voters.

Supporters of the ruling coalition say Lithuania was among the lucky ones and has suffered relatively little so far.

But others complain that strict health regulations focused on fighting the virus left thousands of other patients without proper access to health services.

So far Lithuania has seen 5,500 confirmed coronavirus cases and just above 100 deaths.