Two centre-right economists will battle it out to become Lithuania’s next president in a run-off vote, results of the presidential election showed early on May 13. The incumbent prime minister dropped out of the race.
Economist Ingrida Simonyte, 44, a conservative MP backed by Homeland Union party, won the first round of the election, scooping 31.13% of the votes. In the run-off, scheduled to take place on May 26 – together with the election to the European Parliament – she will face Gitanas Nauseda, 54, former chief economist at SEB bank, who is running as an independent. Nauseda won 30.95% of the votes.
The incumbent Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis came in third, winning 19.72% of the votes in what some observers say was Lithuanians’ giving a vote of no-confidence to the government. Skvernelis has already said he will stand down as prime minister.
Lithuanians voted to pick their new president to succeed the popular incumbent Dalia Grybauskaite, who gave her unofficial backing to Simonyte.
No revolution is expected as a result of the election in the country of 2.8mn that the outgoing Grybauskaite affirmed as one of the most pro-EU in the crisis-ridden bloc, as well as a staunch Nato ally.
The policy that Grybauskaite helped establish during her two-term, 10-year, tenure, as a firm cornerstone of Lithuania’s position in Europe will remain virtually unchanged, leading candidates have said.
Simonyte and Nauseda are close to one another on boosting Lithuania’s defence capabilities and share a positive view of the EU, even if some scepticism on further integration is voiced.
Domestically, the contenders – despite being seen as close or at least favourable to business – vow to improve social security policies.
Both have also presented themselves as independent of party politicking and able to reach across the political spectrum for compromise solutions - a claim that the PM Skvernelis could not voice credibly.
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