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A referendum in Lithuania on compensating citizens for suffering caused by the switch to a market economy failed Saturday because the voter turnout was too low.

International economists had said approval of the referendum, which was opposed by the reformed communist government and backed by the opposition, would be catastrophic for the Baltic nation.The Central Elections Center in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, reported 35 percent of voters had cast ballots just before polls closed.

More than half of the former Soviet republic's registered voters needed to take part for the referendum to be valid.

"Obviously the referendum did not pass," said Albertas Zhelinskas, secretary of the Central Elections Center.

The final figures were to be released Sunday.

Lithuanians went to the beach, to their dachas - everywhere but the polls on the final weekend of their summer.

Among other issues, the ballot asked voters whether the government should compensate Lithuanians for savings lost to inflation.

Opposition lawmakers led by former President Vytautas Landsbergis said the plan would benefit Lithuanians suffering in the new market economy. Funding for the measure would come from selling off state industries, they argued.

But the reformed Communist government said its $2 billion price tag would bankrupt the treasury and send the country of 3.7 million people into hyperinflation. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and others agreed.

Annual inflation has fallen sharply in the past 18 months after surpassing 1,000 percent following the Soviet Union's collapse. Lithuania and its Baltic neighbors, Estonia and Latvia, have been the most successful ex-Soviet republics in making the transition to a market economy.

Government leaders had voiced confidence the referendum would fail. But they knew many voters, attracted by the promise of a handout, would say "yes" to its vague questions.

Under Lithuanian law, referendum results are binding.