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July 24, 2019

Embattled Lithuanian PM wins confidence vote


July 24, 2019

VILNIUS: Lithuania’s centre-left Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis on Tuesday won a confidence vote after presenting an expanded majority coalition forged in the wake of his failed presidential bid.

Earlier this month, Skvernelis reneged on a pledge to quit after being eliminated in the first round of May’s presidential election in the Baltic eurozone state of 2.8 million.

His cabinet reshuffle saw two new parties formally join his government to create a four-party coalition commanding a majority 75 of the 141 seats in parliament -- 14 more seats than the previous majority.

Skvernelis won Tuesday’s ballot by 83 votes to one vote, with 30 abstentions.

The centrist Farmers and Greens Union and the leftist Social Democratic Labour Party -- which formed the coalition until July -- will now govern in tandem with the right-wing Order and Justice and the centre-right Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania-Christian Families Alliance.

Skvernelis vowed to focus on reducing social exclusion by raising child benefits, public sector wages and pursuing tax reform ahead of next year’s general election.

Having come under heavy fire from the liberal opposition for triggering "political chaos" over his resignation bid, Skvernelis vowed on Tuesday he would seek greater compromise with opposition parties.

"We have to agree on the most important issues," Skvernelis told parliament.

His cabinet still needs the approval of President Gitanas Nauseda, a centre-right independent, who won May’s election on promises of forging a welfare state to address income inequality.

He replaces two-term president Dalia Grybaustkaite, a popular independent who was unable to make a third bid for office due to term limits.

A former national police chief and interior minister, Skvernelis, 49, became prime minister in December 2016 after a surprise victory by his closely allied Farmers and Greens Union, then a new political force.

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