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Lithuania: Voter Apathy Marks Parliamentary Elections

Vilnius, 21 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Voter apathy marked yesterday's Lithuanian parliamentary elections, which were seen as a test of the economic and social policies of the ruling leftist Democratic Labor Party.

The vote was the Baltic country's second general election since it regained independence in 1991. Electoral officials said turnout reached 51 percent by 19:00 local time, two hours before polls closed.

The nationalist conservative Homeland Union led by Vytautis Landsbergis is challenging Labor's reformed communists. Landsbergis said he was moderately optimistic about his party's chances. Neither party was expected to win an absolute majority, however.

Former Prime Minister Kazimiera Prunskiene is hoping her new Women's Party will surmount the five percent barrier to enter parliament.

Preliminary results are expected early tomorrow. Observers say the low turnout may reflect the complexity of the ballot. More than 1,200 candidates are vying for a total of 141 parliamentary seats.