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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vilnius Scraps System Of Two-Round Voting

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- Lithuania's parliament voted Tuesday to scrap a two-round voting system in the fall elections, a move analysts and opposition members said bolstered established parties against a rising tide of newcomers.

If President Valdas Adamkus signs the bill into law, the general election will be decided Oct. 8, when all 141 seats in parliament will be filled.

Lawmakers voted 64-41 to amend the election law, with 18 abstaining and two ballots declared invalid.

"[Parliament] decided elections should take place in one day both according to the party lists and single mandate districts where the candidate who gets the most votes is elected," said parliament speaker Vytautas Landsbergis.

Previous elections took place in two rounds several weeks apart, with party list voting under a proportional system deciding 70 mandates in the first round.

First-round ballots were also cast for the other 71 single mandates, but most of those seats were filled in the second round as preliminary voting usually left most candidates short of the 50 percent needed to win the seat.

Supporters of the new system said it saves money and time.

"The amendments will force the candidates to present their programs that clearly identify them. The simplified procedures will save close to

6 million litas [$1.5 million]," said parliamentarian Rimvydas Survila, the initiator of the amendments.

However, opposition parliamentarians and analysts saw the move as an attempt by established parties, especially the Conservatives, to shore up their positions against a rising tide of political newcomers bidding to sweep into parliament this fall.

Conservative Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius is seen to be in a weak position as the economy has started to recover only this year from a 15-month recession. Voters are disgruntled over a controversial oil sector privatization last year.

The center-left New Union party of political beginners led by lawyer Arturas Paulauskas has emerged as an early favorite.

The ultra-free-market Liberal Union, who have one seat in parliament but are enjoying the popularity of their new head, former Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas, are also seen doing well.

The ruling Conservatives and Christian Democrats have also undergone splits, with former friends now heading rival parties.

All this bodes poorly for the Conservatives, shown trailing the newcomers in polls. But the new law limiting single-mandate voting to just one round would help them capitalize on their small core of loyalists.

"The amendments are without a doubt favorable to the current ruling party as the Conservatives have a very focused and devoted electorate," said parliamentarian Justinas Karosas, from the opposition Democratic Labor Party.

Karosas said opposition parties intended to urge the president to veto the bill.