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Lithuanian presidential election to go to runoff, incumbent president ahead

by Dmytro Basmat May 13, 2024 6:20 AM 2 min read
Ukrainie's President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda embrace after addressing the crowd at Lukiskiu Square in Vilnius on July 11, 2023, during a NATO Summit. (Photo: Petras Malukas/AFP via Getty Images)
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Lithuania's presidential election is set to go to a runoff later this month as no candidate gained a majority of the votes on May 12, in a race that has heavily focused on the country's role as a NATO neighbor of Russia.

Incumbent President Gitanas Nauseda placed first in the initial round of voting with 44.2 percent of the vote, finishing well ahead of his competitor incumbent Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte at 19.7 percent.

Throughout the campaign the candidates heavily focused on future security policies in response to Russian aggression in the region. All the major candidates agreed that NATO and EU member states should boost defence spending in support of Ukraine.

Nauseda, 59, the country's populist president has been serving in the top role since 2019. While Simonyte, 49, a fiscal conservative with liberal views on social issues, has been serving as prime minister since 2020. The two previously faced off against one another in the 2019 presidential election, which Nauseda won.

Lithuania remains among the top supporters of Ukraine globally in terms of the share of GDP, with bilateral aid to Ukraine reaching 1.5% of GDP. Additionally, Lithuania’s share of EU assistance for Ukraine amounts to another 0.5 % of the country’s GDP.

Earlier this year, Lithuania pledged a long-term 200 million euro (roughly $215 million) support package to Kyiv.

Many Lithuanians fear that if Russia is successful in Ukraine, then Lithuania - surrounded by Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad - may become Russia's next target of attack. According to a recent poll, seven out of ten residents of Lithuania said that they believe Russia poses a threat to their country's national security.

The president of Lithuania serves as the supreme commander of the country's armed forces, while also overseeing foreign and security policy.

Eight candidates ran in the presidential election. Ignas Vegele, a prominent lawyer and right-wing activist who fiercely criticized the government for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, finished third with 12.3 percent support, followed by former right-wing politician Remigijus Zemaitaitis with 9.2 percent.

The runoff election between Nauseda and Simonyte is scheduled for May 26.

Lithuanian FM backs sending Western military trainers to Ukraine
Western military personnel training Ukrainian troops on the ground rather than in NATO countries would have practical advantages, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told the Guardian in an interview published on May 9.






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