October 29, 2012

Lithuanian politics were in turmoil Monday after the president moved to block three opposition parties from forming a new government because one of them is accused of vote buying and fraudulent financing. The unexpected development complicated coalition talks after Sunday’s parliamentary election, which saw the center-right government punished by austerity-weary voters.

The main opposition Social Democrats won the vote and announced plans to form a left-leaning government with the Labor Party, which finished third, and the fourth-placed Order and Justice party.

But President Dalia Grybauskaite, a former EU budget commissioner, told reporters she couldn’t accept a government that included Labor because of the fraud allegations against it.

Lithuanian prosecutors and election officials have accused at least two Labor Party members of vote buying, with one allegedly purchasing votes from prison inmates. In addition, Russian-born party leader Viktor Uspaskich is under criminal investigation for his alleged role in fraudulent party financing.

The president said she was ready to ask the Social Democrats to form a government, but without Labor it would need to find another coalition partner to secure a majority in Parliament.

That could open the door for Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius’ conservative party, which finished second in the election. Kubilius has suggested to reporters that his party is open to coalition talks with the Social Democrats.