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Tight Lithuanian Presidential election runoff expected on 26 May

Combo picture, Gitanas Nauseda and Ingrida Simonyte

By Angele Kedatiene

On Sunday (12 May) Lithuanians voted in the first round of the Presidential elections. After all votes were counted, Ingrida Simonyte, the Homeland Union backed candidate, and Gitanas Nauseda, the independent candidate have finished on par, getting respectively 31,35% and  31,16% of the votes. Prime minister Saulius Skvernelis was third with 19,86%, EU Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis – forth with  4,83% of votes. Results have been in line with the latest opinion pools, which in Lithuania work well.

The results mean that the competition between the two frontrunners will be very tight. Knowing this, right after the results became public, they started negotiations over dividing the posts of the President and Prime Minister, since the incumbent PM, Saulius Skvernelis, who came third, said he will resign.

According to political scientists, Nauseda, a newcomer to politics, has a better starting position in the presidential runoff, but a lot of things will depend on the election campaign and the turnout. Simonyte, backed by the opposition conservative Homeland Union could find it hard to receive support from people who voted for other candidates.

As Ramunas Vilpisauskas, the Director of International relations and politics institute by Vilnius University said, the voters were motivated by the personalities, but not so much by the programs of the candidates.

According to analyst Zygimantas Maurickas from Luminor bank, the new President of Lithuania could change the economic policy of the country, thus, Lithuania could brace for a slightly turbulent autumn while preparing the 2020 budget. It’s too early to predict the reforms, however both candidates Simonyte and Nauseda are strong economists, and both put emphasis on the welfare state, higher redistribution, better attention to the public sector, reduction of poverty and social exclusion. By the way, it has been Simonyte, at that time finance minister, who in 2008 or 2009 refused loans from IMF due to restrictive social polices required as a condition, while implementing a policy of borrowing with higher interests rates, but not creating problems in terms of domestic polices.

On 26 May the Lithuanians will also vote for European elections.

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