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Monday 16.09.2019 | Name days: Dārgs, Asja, Asnate, Dāgs

A nail-biting rivalry in Lithuania’s presidential race

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Lithuanian presidential candiates Ingrida Šimonytė (right) and Gitanas Nausėda

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

With just 10 days till the presidential election, Ingrida Šimonytė, the conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) – backed candidate in May 12 presidential election, has taken a slim lead over Gitanas Nausėda, the frontrunner until recently, the latest poll by pollster Vilmorus shows.

Neck-to-neck rivalry a bad sign for PM Skvernelis

Šimonytė, who is a MP now and was Finance minister in the 2008-2012 Conservatives-led Cabinet, infamous for slashing pensions and social allowances in attempt to curb economic crisis, edges Nausėda by a mere 0.4 percentage point – Šimonytė’s support is at 22.3 percent and Nausėda’s – 21.9 percent.

The neck-to-neck rivalry of the two may be a bad omen for Saulius Skvernelis, the presidential hopeful of the ruling Farmers and Greens, who in the poll came third with 16.7 percent support, down from 18.4 percent a month ago. The difference between the two leading candidates is within the 3.1 percent error margin.

No changes are expected

«I really do not expect any major changes in the polls until May 12, unless a big scandal, entangling some candidate, breaks out.  With so little to go, we see Skvernelis being in particular vociferous and active in trying to herd undetermined voters behind him, but, first, the efforts did not drum up a desired result so far and, secondly, there’re quite few undetermined voters in the race,» Vytautas Bruveris, political analyst and a TV talk-show host, told Baltic News Network (BNN).

Support for MP Šimonytė increased for the fourth month in a row, compared with 22 percent in March, while that for Nausėda, an economist standing as an independent in the election, fell slightly for the second successive month, from 23.5 percent in March, according to Vilmorus.

Razzed frontrunner turns to Facebook

Irked by the Vilmorus poll results, Nausėda posted a comment on his Facebook, questioning the credibility of Vilmorus polling methodology.

«After Gaidys (head of Vimorus)«wrongly»«calculated» Šimonytė ratings in January, putting her behind Skvernelis and me, the Conservatives were turning their heels over heads to change that. And, voila, we have the results: their candidate is climbing uphill since then and my ratings got stalled. This is weird, as the other polling companies, Spinter and Baltijos tyrimai, still see me as a clear frontrunner…I just want to tell Gaidys that I do not rule out giving him a call on the election day and asking why his methodology did not work,» Nausėda said on Facebook.

Pollster does not quiver

«I stand by my words – Šimonytė did slightly better in our last polls. However, if the two candidates met in a run-off, Nausėda would win,» Vladas Gaidys, Vilmorus head, told BNN. «Šimonytė’s voters are much more active, but Nausėda appeals to a broader voter base in terms of both various socio-demographic parameters and as a second-choice candidate,» he added.

The latest Vilmorus poll showed support for European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party’s candidate, rise to 7.9 percent, from 4.7 percent in March.

Further down the list were philosopher Arvydas Juozaitis with 4.5 percent, MEP Valdemar Tomaševski with 3.1 percent, MP Naglis Puteikis with 2.2 percent, MEP Valentinas Mazuronis.

Candidatereminds Paksas phenomenon

Approached by BNN, Juozaitis, who hinged his election campaign on national ideas – he supports reinstating Lithuania’s former currency litas, doubts the benefits of further EU integration and abides by strict Christian values – did question the results of the presidential polls.

«I have a strong gut feeling, and more than it, that they are tweaked in one or another way by stakeholders of the pollsters. My best pollsters are Lithuanian people, who have by now expressed huge support to me. I am invincible with it. I am sure I will make it to the second round of the election (to be held on May 26),» Juozaitis told BNN.

He reminded phenomenon of Rolandas Paksas, who won 2003 presidential election having erased a double-digit lag behind the other candidates within a couple of the last weeks. He however was impeached later and removed from office.

Sąjūdis can be revived?

During the campaign, Juozaitis, seen as a humble and polite man, did raise eyebrows of many by harshly castigating the European Union for its neo-liberalism, federalization and what he says is «abandoning» of Christianity.

According to him, Lithuania, as a country, has to build its future on four fulcrums: its language, traditional family, proper education and justice.

«People tend to say that the vivid ideas of Sąjūdis (Lithuania’s national movement during 1988-1990 that led to the restoration of independence in 1990 – L.J) are gone forever, but I disagree. I want to be a president of hope and a spearhead of a new movement for national revival,» Juozaitis emphasised.

LRT mulls defamation lawsuit against Juozaitis

Juozaitis’ incendiary rhetoric got him in trouble with Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT, which said last week it mulls suing Juozaitis over his allegations that Lithuanian Television is «a hotbed of corruption.»

Having called it so in a televised prime-air debate, Juozaitis left the TV studio minutes later, accusing the public broadcaster and other media of favouring some candidates over others.

Expert: Candidates ran out of shots

Lauras Bielinis, professor of Kaunas Magnus University, believes that the presidential candidates have already «exhausted» means to influence voters.

«Certainly, Skvernelis, as acting prime minister, possessed most administrative resources throughout the campaign. He pledged this week to raise the minimum pension to 400 euro from next year if elected. However, I doubt if the pledge and all the other promises he made resonate well with voters supporting the other candidates,» Bielinis told BNN.

«I’d rather say that not the candidates, but the political parties, the outgoing President (Dalia Grybauskaitė) and other public luminaries are in a better position to influence the campaign over the next ten days, but, again, to a very limited degree,» Bielinis reasoned.

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