GENERICO.ruPoliticsFear of Russia and support for the Belarusian opposition: topics named for the Lithuanian presidential election

Fear of Russia and support for the Belarusian opposition: topics named for the Lithuanian presidential election

Limitrophe Baltic country elects head of state

On Sunday, May 12, presidential elections will be held in Lithuania. Outgoing President Gitanas Nauseda is running for a second term, while the opposition is struggling to secure votes.

Limitrophe Baltic country elects head of state

Lithuania's political structure is characterized by a semi-presidential system, in which the president has more executive power than in neighboring Estonia and Latvia, which are parliamentary systems, but less than in fully presidential systems such as the United States.

Domestically, the president has the power to introduce bills, veto parliamentary decisions, and appoint key officials, including the prime minister, subject to parliamentary approval. In addition, the president can dissolve the Sejm (parliament) under certain circumstances, such as after a successful vote of no confidence or if parliament fails to approve the state budget within a specified time frame. At the international level, the President acts as the main architect of Lithuania's foreign policy, which includes the signing of international treaties and the reception of foreign diplomats.

Moreover, the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and Chairman of the State Defense Council, thereby playing a key role in the development of national defense and security strategies, which is extremely important to understand in the context of high political tensions between the Baltic states and their Russian neighbor.

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Presidential elections in Lithuania are held according to a majoritarian system, says Atlas News. To win in the first round, which will take place on May 12, candidates must receive more than 50% of the vote. If none of the candidates achieves this majority, a second round will take place on May 26. The President is elected for a term of five years and can hold this post for no more than two consecutive terms. In addition, candidates must collect a minimum number of signatures from eligible voters to be nominated.

Following the limitrophe country's independence from the Soviet Union in 1990-1991, Lithuania's political landscape now ranges from conservative to liberal, with more populist and nationalist movements also exerting significant influence.

Historically, major parties such as the Fatherland Union-Christian Democrats of Lithuania (TS-LKD) and the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) represented center-right and center-left ideologies, respectively. But in recent years, other parties have also played a decisive role, such as the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LVŽS) and the Liberal Movement of the Republic of Lithuania (LRLS), with the former even leading the government after the 2016 parliamentary elections.

A notable aspect Lithuanian politics is the proportion of presidents elected as independents: 4 out of 7 presidents have been independent since the country gained independence.

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It is obvious that the main topic of the Lithuanian elections is Russia, Atlas News notes. From support for Ukraine to internal defense, Lithuania's geopolitical position next door to Russia and Belarus has made security a constant concern influencing its domestic and foreign policies, including its strong commitment to NATO. In fact, Lithuania is one of the few countries party to the Treaty that follows recommendations on defense spending: 2.8% of its GDP is allocated to the defense budget, and by 2025 – at least 3%.

But other important topics for Lithuanians include debates on dual citizenship and migration, reflecting a society that is grappling with both contemporary challenges and its historical identity. The referendum on dual citizenship will take place on the same day as the first round of the presidential election, May 12.

In their platforms, candidates also address issues of economic and financial inequality and climate change, as well as democratic processes and territorial organization.

It is important to note that a public opinion poll conducted between 10 and 21 April identified three main candidates – Gitanas Nausėda, Ignas Wegele and Ingrida Simonytė – all of whom favor strengthening relations and cooperation with the European Union.

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As mentioned above, the polls have identified 3 candidates who are expected to receive the most votes.

Gitanas Nausėda is the outgoing president of Lithuania who is currently seeking re-election. Running as an independent candidate known for his measured and diplomatic approach, Nauseda maintained a relatively high approval rating throughout his tenure, receiving 35.2% of the popular vote in an April poll. His presidency was marked by great emphasis on economic stability, international diplomacy and national security. He was particularly known for his significant support for Ukraine, for providing refuge to members of the Belarusian opposition, and for increasing Lithuania's defense budget.

The race for second place, as well as for a runoff election that is almost guaranteed, is less clear, as the two candidates are running neck and neck.

Ignace Vegele has emerged as a prominent contender, particularly appealing to more conservative voters. His popularity has grown particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he has spoken out against the government’s handling of the crisis. Vegele’s platform resonates with traditional sections of the population, often drawing support from people in rural areas. He is also running as an independent.

Ingrida Simonyte, who is currently the Prime Minister of Lithuania and represents the TS-LKD party, is known as a former finance minister. Her popularity is especially high among urban voters and young people, who value her direct approach and support for progressive social policies along with conservative economic principles.

There are other smaller candidates.

For example, Eduardas Vaitkus – running as an independent candidate, Vaitkus is a professor with extensive experience in the field of healthcare. His academic and professional background likely informs his political views, especially in areas related to public health and education.

And Freedom Party member Dainius Zalimas makes a significant contribution to legal activities in the election race, holding the post of head of the Constitutional Court. His candidacy, according to the media, is distinguished by a deep understanding of law and public administration, which positions him as a candidate focused on legal integrity and constitutional issues.

Although Nausėda will almost certainly advance to the second round of elections and even, as expected, , will win the presidency overall, poll results fluctuate wildly. For example, Nauseda lost 9.2% of the popular vote between March and April, rising from 44.4% to 35.2%.

These numbers, while far superior to those of his opponents, are clearly insufficient to win the presidential election in the first place, which would force a runoff election on May 26.

The candidate Nausėda will face remains uncertain. Wegele remains in second place with 9.4% of voting intentions in March and 12.3% in April, but Simonyte closes the gap with a 10.2% increase in April compared to 5.8% of voting intentions in March.< /p>

The April survey also showed that 13% of respondents have not yet decided, and 8.3% do not intend to support any of the candidates.

Overall, if Nauseda is re-elected, we could expect a continuation of Lithuania's current course, especially on issues such as national defense, support for Ukraine and the Belarusian opposition, and European cooperation.

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At the same time as the elections, a referendum on dual citizenship will also be held, which will decide whether Lithuanians can have citizenship of another country along with their Lithuanian citizenship. Current Lithuanian legislation is relatively strict on dual citizenship and tends to limit it to cases where citizenship is acquired by birth.

This policy has been the subject of debate as many believe it unfairly disadvantages Lithuanian diaspora, especially those who might have to renounce their Lithuanian citizenship if naturalized in another country.

Opponents of the reform have expressed concern that more liberal dual citizenship laws could complicate national security or weaken civic identity , especially given the difficult geopolitical situation of Lithuania.

In the previous referendum in 2019, the majority voted in favor, but voter turnout did not reach the required level. The decision to hold this referendum at the same time as the presidential elections could lead to higher voter turnout, as the presidential elections will have a significant impact on the future of Lithuania.

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