Lithuania rejects ex-communists

Vilnius - The Lithuanian independence leader Vytautas Landsbergis made a victorious comeback over his former communist foes yesterday as results of a parliamentary election put his party on top.

Reversing the blow of rejection by Lithuanians in 1992, Mr Landsbergis' Homeland Union led the former communists of the Lithuanian Democratic Labour Party with around a third of the votes counted. Mr Landsbergis said: "We can say that our party won a victory in the first round, and we do not think that, after all the votes are counted, there will be any significant changes that could affect our leading position."

"Our candidate for the post of prime minister is Gediminas Vagnorius ... We hope that there will be no obstruction to this from the president."

Mr Landsbergis, a former music professor, was at the centre of the Baltic state's head-on collision with the might of the former Soviet Union.

He won the admiration of many people for himself and ordinary Lithuanians as they took on Moscow and refused to cave in even when 13 people were killed in January 1991 in a Soviet army assault on Vilnius's television station, which was protected by people behind makeshift barricades.

But in a shock defeat in 1992, the people backed the LDLP as a party to ease the trauma of economic collapse at a time when Mr Landsbergis's Sajudis was riven by in-fighting.

LDLP officials said yesterday they were ready to concede defeat and work in opposition to a right-wing government.

A turn-out of only 55 per cent took some of the shine off Mr Landsbergis's victory. In 1992 the turn-out was 75 per cent.

The first round vote will decide under proportional system 70 seats of the 141-seat parliament, with a second round set for 10 November to decide the rest on a simple majority.

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