VILNIUS, Feb. 27 -– Voters in Lithuania go to the polls Sunday to elect 1,526 deputies of 60 local councils.
This is the sixth local election in the history of Lithuania after its secession from the former USSR in 1991 and it has a record big number of contenders.
The chairman of the country’s Central Electoral Commission, Zenonas Vaigauskas told reporters the polling stations will open at 07:00 hours and the electorate will be able to vote through to 20:00 hours.
The list of candidates aspiring to elected offices contains 16,404 names.
That the competition is really tough can be seen from that fact that more than 20 candidates per seat have been entered in the ballots in the national capital Vilnius alone. This marks an increase of seven candidates per seat versus the previous elections held in 2007.
Apart from the 670 people of Lithuanian ethnic origin, the seats in Vilnius are claimed by 136 Poles, 75 Russians and four Belarussians.
On the nationwide plane, the MPs represent 29 of the 40 officially registered political parties.
A novel development in the current elections is that self-nomination of nonpartisan candidates has been admitted for the first time.
A total 505 such candidates have been registered. Lithuanian experts believe the presence of the independents on the ballots may make the average voter more interested in the election.
The latter is a point of concern, as the 2007 elections were marked by a record low turnout of voters standing at 36.5 percent only.
In line with the European Union norms, Lithuanian government guarantees the right to franchise in the local elections to all the permanent residents of an administrative entity regardless of what country they are citizens of.
About 30,000 foreigners have permits for permanent residence in Lithuania. (PNA/Itar-Tass)