VILNIUS - A new political force has been created as the Homeland Union and the Christian Democrat parties finally merged together at a joint congress to form what could be the most powerful party in the country.
Party leaders Andrius Kubilius and Valentinas Studys signed the merger agreement on May 17. The agreement creates a new political force called the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats.
Both parties first held separate congresses to ensure that party leaders had the blessing of their delegates prior to entering into the merger. The parties' combined membership is now at 18,000, making it the largest in the country.
"We were both right wing parties on the political scene competing for the same spectrum of voters," said Rasa Jukneviciene, deputy minister to Homeland Union head Andrius Kubilius.
"We wanted a strong center right," she said.
Kubilius will hold the post of chairman in the new party, while Studys will be the first deputy minister.
Kubilius said that an important step in the process of aligning the center-right is coming to a close, and Lithuania is helping to do its part to create a unified European center-right.
Both parties were at one time part of the European Peoples Party, and because of this they share much of the same values and policies. The party plans to focus primarily on education and family issues, but Jukneviciene pointed out that the new party also stands for "higher political will 's we don't want an economic crisis like seven years ago."
"This isn't for the current election 's [it is] mainly for the future. Lithuania needs a strong political system that has to copy Europe," she said.
"I do think this will add quantity and quality," the deputy minister said.
Representatives of the new party said it considers a political reformation in Lithuania necessary if they are to make the system stronger.
"We stand for a cleaning of the political system, of political corruption. [It should be] more transparent, more clean, and with stronger political will," said Jukneviciene.
With the next general parliamentary elections set for October 12, the party is working hard to maintain and hopefully increase its high starting membership, but representatives predict that they could lose as much as 5 percent of their voters by the time the election period rolls around.
"We need to increase youth votes. Maybe the youth would like to vote but they are undecided," said Jukneviciene.
The party's main focus is on the older, more educated voter in the over-60 age bracket. They also have a strong following among adults between the ages of 30 and 45.
According to the latest surveys carried out by the Vilnmorus pollster, Homeland Union was the third most popular party in Lithuania with the support of 11.4 percent of voters.
A separate survey conducted by the RAIT Research Company found that the Christian Democrats have the support of 6.5 percent of voter.