Elections: Lithuania: Runoff election for president with clear favorite

Elections: Lithuania: Runoff election for president with clear favorite

Germany’s NATO partner Lithuania is electing a new president. Gitanas Nauseda has been in power since 2019 and is seeking a second term in office. To do so, he must win a runoff election.

In Lithuania, citizens voted in a run-off election for their future head of state. After the polling stations close at 8 p.m. local time (7 p.m. CEST), the counting of votes will begin in the Baltic EU and NATO country. The result is expected overnight.

Head of state Gitanas Nauseda, in office since 2019, entered the duel as the clear favorite. His opponent was Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte – as in the previous presidential election.

According to the electoral commission, just under half of the approximately 2.4 million eligible voters in the country, which borders the Russian Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad and Russia’s close ally Belarus, cast their votes. This means that turnout was significantly lower than in the first round of voting on May 12. At that time, Nauseda received the most votes with just under 44 percent and won 57 of 60 constituencies – but not an absolute majority. Simonyte received just over 20 percent.

Nauseda has made a name for himself as a determined supporter of Ukraine, which has been attacked by Russia. He has also made a name for himself internationally as a committed representative of the interests of his home country, which is particularly exposed in the geopolitical confrontation with Russia due to its location on NATO’s eastern flank. Germany wants to permanently station a combat-ready brigade with up to 5,000 German soldiers in the country.

Differences in the right to abortion and same-sex civil partnerships

In the runoff election, many Lithuanians expect Nauseda to win clearly, as in 2019. The 60-year-old himself appears confident at the polling station, but does not want to speculate on his possible election result. He believes his chances in the second round are good, he said after voting. Simonyte is also optimistic that she can be an alternative for voters. If she wins the election, she will not change the direction of the state – pro-European, western. However, she wants to work for faster progress, greater openness and more tolerance, said the 49-year-old.

In Lithuania, the head of state has mainly representative duties, but in comparison to the German Federal President, he has more extensive powers in foreign and defense policy. Nauseda and Simonyte speak with one voice on many issues. Both strongly support a strong role for NATO in the security of the region and support higher military spending.

There are differences between the two conservative economists on sociopolitical issues such as the right to abortion and the recognition of same-sex civil partnerships. Simonyte takes a more liberal stance than Nauseda in predominantly Catholic Lithuania.

Source: Stern

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