Lithuanians count votes in presidential election amid Russia tensions

Lithuanians count votes in presidential election amid Russia tensions
Lithuanians count votes in presidential election amid Russia tensions/Reuters
Lithuanians count votes in presidential election amid Russia tensions
Lithuanians count votes in presidential election amid Russia tensions/Reuters

Lithuanians count votes in presidential election amid Russia tensions

Lithuanians count votes in presidential election amid Russia tensions

Lithuanians count votes in presidential election amid Russia tensions

VILNIUS, May 26 (Reuters) – The vote count has begun on Sunday in Lithuanian presidential elections, with incumbent Gitanas Nauseda expected to win after a campaign dominated by security concerns in the European Union and NATO member that neighbours Russia.

The Baltic nation of 2.8 million people has been a staunch ally of Ukraine since Russia’s 2022 invasion. Like other countries in the region, it worries it could be Moscow’s next target.

Just below half of voters have cast their ballots on Sunday before polls closed at 8 p.m. (1700 GMT), the electoral authority said, with results expected before midnight.

Nauseda, 60, a former senior economist with Swedish banking group SEB who is not affiliated with any party, won the first round of the election on May 12 with 44% of the votes, short of the 50% he needed for an outright victory.

In the run-off, he is facing Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, 49, from the ruling centre-right Homeland Union party that has been trailing in opinion polls. She was the only woman out of eight candidates in the first round and came second with 20%.

Just over half of Lithuanians believe a Russian attack is possible or even very likely, according to a ELTA/Baltijos Tyrimai poll conducted between February and March. Russia has regularly dismissed concerns that it might attack a NATO member.

Nauseda told a debate on Tuesday he sees Russia as an enemy. “Our enemies – who even call themselves our enemies, who are enemies of us and all the democratic world – are attempting to destabilise our politics, and we must do all to resist.”

Both Nauseda and Simonyte support increasing defence spending to at least 3% of Lithuania’s gross domestic product, from the 2.75% planned for this year.

But Nauseda, who is a social conservative, has clashed with Simonyte on other issues, including whether to give a legal recognition to same-sex civil partnerships, which Nauseda opposes.

He has said it would make such unions too similar to marriage, which Lithuania’s constitution only allows between a man and a woman.

Simonyte, a former finance minister and a fiscal hawk, said on Thursday that if she won, “the direction for the country – pro-European, pro-Western – would not change”.

“But I would like quicker progress, more openness and understanding, larger tolerance to people who are different from us”, she said.

Lithuania’s president has a semi-executive role, which includes heading the armed forces, chairing the supreme defence and national security policy body and representing the country at EU and NATO summits.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by VoM News staff and is published from syndicated feed)

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