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Lithuania

Yearbook 2009

Lithuania. According to countryaah, the economic crisis led to tightening and tax increases, which led to popular protests in January. A demonstration outside the parliament organized by the union derailed in crowds as hundreds of youths violently attacked the parliament building. The police used tear gas and rubber bullets and many were arrested.

2009 Lithuania

The crisis mood broke somewhat in May, when EU budget commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite, 53, won the presidential election with a full 68 percent of the vote. The popular Grybauskaite had been a successful finance minister before his time in Brussels, and many Lithuanians hoped that she would find a way out of the country's political and economic crisis. In the presidential election, Social Democrat Algirdas Butkevičius came in second place with just under 12 percent of the vote. The turnout was just over 51 percent. Grybauskaite took office in July, when 82-year-old Valdas Adamkus resigned.

The recession of the economy put severe pressure on the population, especially the pensioners who were among the lowest-paid in the EU. For the first three quarters of the year, GDP fell by about 13, 20 and 14 percent, respectively, compared with the previous year. The fall in GDP led to dramatically falling tax revenue and thus a high budget deficit. However, the government tried to avoid loans from international donors so as not to become dependent on their terms, such as neighboring Latvia. During the summer, it was decided that wages in the public sector would be reduced by between 5 and 24.5 percent. High-paid would lose the most and low-paid would lose the least.

The weak government coalition, led by Prime Minister Andrius Kubiliu's Conservative Party, had problems not only with the economy and raging social unrest. Kubilius depended on two rival liberal small parties and the National Resurrection Party, which entered parliament and government with populist demands. The populist party suffered from internal divisions and fell into two factions, weakening the government in the midst of negotiations for politically sensitive budget cuts. When the leader of the populist party Arŭnas Valinskas was accused of ties to the mafia, President Grybauskaite invited him to resign as the Speaker of Parliament. He rejected both charges and claims, prompting a vote of no confidence in Parliament in September, when Valinskas was ousted. The government was thus further weakened.

At the end of the year, US former CIA agents claimed that Lithuania had hosted a secret CIA prison for interrogation of terror suspects. Lithuania would have agreed to the American wishes to improve relations with the United States. President Grybauskaite said the information would be investigated. On New Year's Eve, the second and last Chernobyl-type reactor was closed at the Ignalina nuclear power plant, a requirement from the EU for Lithuania's membership of the Union. Lithuania's electricity production thus became dependent on gas and electricity supplies from the Russian Federation, among others.

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