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Lithuania's Conservatives begin coalition drive

 Leader of the conservative Homeland Union party Andrius Kubilius and his wife Rasa,  celebrate after hearing preliminary results predicting winning t...

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Leader of the conservative Homeland Union party Andrius Kubilius and his wife Rasa, celebrate after hearing preliminary results predicting winning t...

Lithuania's Conservatives began a drive to form a coalition government for the Baltic state yesterday, after an election win left them within reach of office for the first time in eight years.
Conservative leader Andrius Kubilius was locked in negotiations with counterparts from the National Resurrection Party, the Liberal Movement and the Liberal and center Union.
"We have agreed to agree. And we are going to do it rapidly," Kubilius told reporters.
"The hardest part will be to see eye to eye on how to get out of the economic crisis," he said.
Recent data suggest that Lithuania's long-robust economy is set to stall or even slide into recession next year, a casualty of the world financial crisis, high domestic inflation and slumping demand in export markets.
Besides focusing on economic reform, the Conservatives' manifesto also called for stricter family values in this mainly Roman Catholic country, and some analysts have said that could cause friction in the coalition.
There are also suggestions that differences on financial policy could spark discord.
The four parties hold 79 seats in Lithuania's 141-member parliament, enough to build a viable coalition to replace the Social Democrats, who came second in Sunday's vote.
Conservative sources told AFP their party wanted at least the premiership, as well the foreign and defense ministries.
Vilnius University analyst Aine Ramonaite said that while the would-be coalition could "face some difficult moments, I see a chance that it will be able to do its job successfully."
"Above all, the coalition will have a clear core, the Conservatives," she said.
The Conservatives were last in office from 1996 to 2000, with Kubilius serving as premier for the final year.
The Social Democrats held power since 2001 in various coalitions, which are the norm in Lithuania, a European Union member since 2004.
The Conservatives won 44 seats in the election to the Social Democrats' 26.
The National Resurrection Party came third with 16. It was founded this year by Arunas Valinskas, who made his name as a producer and presenter on Lithuanian television, and has promised to restore faith in politics here.
Surveys put parliament as one of the least popular institutions among Lithuania's 3.4 million people.
The Liberal Movement won 11 seats and the Liberal and center Union eight.
"We hope this strong coalition will be in office for the next four years," Valinskas told reporters.
The Social Democrats' defeated five-party coalition had a narrow hold on parliament, which critics said made it duck unpopular reforms, notably of the public sector.
In a symptom of Lithuania's rocky political system, reshuffles and coalition collapses have seen the prime minister's post change hands 17 times since the country declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.