Pro-EU candidates expected to win in Lithuanian presidential runoff

Pro-EU candidates expected to win in Lithuanian presidential runoff

Lithuania holds a presidential run-off election today. Two pro-EU candidates will contest the vote—political novice Gitanas Nauseda and former finance

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Photo: Reuters

Lithuania holds a presidential run-off election today. Two pro-EU candidates will contest the vote—political novice Gitanas Nauseda and former finance minister Ingrida Simonyte.

Middle-class urban voters back Ms Simonyte for the solid economic growth enjoyed by Lithuania in recent years, including 2.7% this year—well above the 1.1% EU average. However, she also presided over unpopular austerity pension cuts during the global financial crisis. Mr Nauseda has concentrated his campaign on income inequality in a nation where 30% are hovering on the poverty line, especially in rural areas. Both candidates are Europhiles and follow a conventional anti-Russia stance.

The Presidency is mostly a ceremonial position regarding domestic matters. However, the president possesses veto powers that can steer defence and foreign policy and represents the country at EU summits.

Observers put Mr Nauseda as the favourite to win today given his appeal to a wider range of voters across the political spectrum. Regardless, Lithuania will buck the Eurosceptic and populist trend in Eastern-bloc countries, with both candidates likely to support the Emmanuel Macron-led bloc inside the EU, which favours closer EU integration.

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