Russian threat in the backdrop of the presidential election in Lithuania | TV5MONDE

Russian threat in the backdrop of the presidential election in Lithuania | TV5MONDE
Russian threat in the backdrop of the presidential election in Lithuania | TV5MONDE

Lithuanians voted on Sunday in the second round of the presidential election choosing between the outgoing head of state and his Prime Minister, at a time when this Baltic country, fearing Russia, is focusing on defense and security issues.

Polling stations closed at 5:00 p.m. GMT. No exit polls were conducted following the vote.

The participation rate was 49.61%, according to the electoral commission.

While both candidates agree to increase the defense budget, their personal differences appear to play a big role in the election.

Former banker Gitanas Nauseda, 60, is the big favorite to win a second five-year term at the head of the country of 2.8 million inhabitants, a member of NATO and the EU.

The Lithuanian president heads defense and foreign policy and attends EU and NATO summits, but he must consult the government and parliament to appoint top officials.

Before the second round, Mr. Nauseda said he expected to collect 75% of the vote, after obtaining almost 44% in the first.

Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, candidate of the ruling conservatives, obtained only 20% of the votes in the first round two weeks ago.

In a social media post on Sunday, Nauseda invited people to wait for the election results in the presidential palace garden, prompting the electoral commission to warn him of a possible violation of electoral silence.

But the president’s spokesperson, Ridas Jasiulionis, told local media that the president would not delete his Facebook post, assuring that he was not campaigning.

Ms. Simonyte, for her part, did not speak on Sunday.

No polls were conducted between the two rounds.

Ms. Simonyte, 49, is running for the second time in the presidential election, after being defeated by Mr. Nauseda in the 2019 runoff.

“I have a small child (…), so I want Lithuania to develop and be a good country to live in,” explains Rafal, 40, a sculptor, who voted for Mr. Nauseda.

“I’m not a fan of the conservatives, but I prefer her to Nauseda. (…) Like me, she tells things as they are, without manipulation” Jurga Pacekajute, 48, told AFP. a communications specialist.

Defense budget –

Both candidates agree on the need to increase defense spending to counter the threat from Moscow.

According to the Germany-based Kiel Institute, Lithuania ranks in the top three donors to war-torn Ukraine as a percentage of GDP.

This week, Ms Simonyte’s government proposed increasing the defense budget to 3% of GDP.

The government wants in particular to use these funds to strengthen the army and finance the stationing of a German brigade on its territory.

Berlin plans to complete the installation of around 5,000 soldiers in Lithuania by 2027.

The difficult relationship between Mr. Nauseda and the ruling conservatives has sometimes sparked foreign policy debates, particularly over relations with China.

Ties between the two countries were strained in 2021 when Lithuania allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in Vilnius under its own name, departing from the common diplomatic practice of using the name of the Taiwanese capital, Taipei. , to avoid angering China.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan as part of its territory and opposes any support for the island likely to give it any international legitimacy, has downgraded its diplomatic relations with Vilnius and blocked its exports.

But for Lithuanian voters, personal differences between the candidates, economic policy and human rights seem to play a more important role.

– Sense of humor

Ms. Simonyte enjoys support from big-city liberals and traditional conservatives.

Fiscally conservative, she has liberal views on social issues and supports same-sex partnerships, which still cause controversy in the predominantly Catholic country.

She is known for her sense of humor and writes her own social media posts

Mr. Nauseda, moderate on many subjects, has established himself as a promoter of the welfare state, with conservative opinions on gay rights.



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