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Lithuania: Nausėda and Šimonytė set to square off in Sunday’s runoff election

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Lithuanian presidential candidates Ingrida Šimonytė un Gitanas Nausėda

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

The nail-biter presidential election will produce late Sunday a new host of the presidential palace in Vilnius’ Daukantas square for next five years, but which of two candidates will be there, now only God knows.

Will money talk in Šimonytė‘s case?

 If money really talks, then Ingrida Šimonytė, the presidential hopeful of the conservative Homeland Union- Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU-LCD), should prevail – she possessed a significantly larger budget for the runoff after HU-LCD allocated her 300,000 euros last week. Figures from the Central Electoral Commission show Nausėda has raised over 196,000 euros and Šimonytė has more than 533,000 euros in her campaign account.  As a result, she is more visible on the TV and in the newspapers, but her rival, Nausėda, an independent candidate, has secured support of the ruling Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU). Thirdly, many experts say he is the one who acts more presidential and is more convincing.

Accusations over political campaign funding

The presidential campaign picked up steam this week with both candidates exchanging accusations over the political campaign funding. Paulius Lukauskas, head of the staff of Šimonytė, hinted without substantiating his suspicions that Nausėda might have spent around 50 percent more money than he had officially raised and lodged a complaint to the Central Electoral Commission, the watchdog of Lithuanian elections. Nausėda’s staff lashed out back, accusing Šimonytė’s team of «disseminating unfounded suspicions, a common strategy in Lithuania’s political life».

Nausėda secured support of several parties, including LFGU

Meantime in securing of political support ahead of the runoff election, Nausėda did much better than Šimonytė. After grilling Nausėda on a range of questions, the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union called on its party members and all citizens this week to vote for independent economist Gitanas Nausėda in Sunday’s elections.  «We are urging (citizens) to vote for Gitanas Nauseda. If turnout is low and people spoil ballots or don’t vote for either candidate, Ingrida Šimonytė will win, which, in our opinion, would be very bad for Lithuania,» Ramūnas Karbauskis said after a meeting of the party’s board.  Interestingly, before the first round of voting two weeks ago Karbauskis called Nausėda conservatives’ candidate, too.

Social Democrats will vote free

The Social Democrats, enjoying a cushy 10 percent support in the ratings, did not express their support to Nausėda after meeting him earlier this week. «The party does not change its position. We are people who keep their word and we stick to the decision me made. The party’s board made the decision last Friday not to support any candidate but party members are not banned from supporting or agitating for one or the other candidate,» Gintautas Paluckas, the SDPL leader, told journalists after the meeting. In his words, the meeting took place at Nausėda’s initiative.

APL-CFA stands for Nausėda

Valdemar Tomaševski, leader of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania–Christian Families Alliance (APL-CFA) said on Thursday he voted for the independent economist Gitanas Nausėda, in the presidential runoff.  «We’ve had a female president for ten years; now it’s time we had men at the helm of the country,» he told reporters after casting an early ballot in Vilnius.  According to him, Nausėda represents the Christian, family values promoted by his party, while Ingrida Šimonytė, the conservatives’ presidential candidate, is a liberal.

«Pecking» each other’s «feathers», not ripping them out

 Unlike in some recent presidential elections, like in Ukraine, for example, where the electoral campaign was marked with animosity among the candidates and in the public, too, Lithuania’s top-tier election did not trigger notably adverse, disrespect-laden outbursts, with both candidates largely shunning to get in each other’s face. According to Rima Urbonaitė, a political scientist, both candidates are just «pecking» each other’s «feathers», but not ripping them out or even roughing them up. Agreeing, Rimvydas Valatka, a well-known Lithuanian commentator, noted that both candidates remind «kids in the sandbox.» «If someone raises doubts about the origin of the money, I’d slap the table with the invoices, allowing all to go through them.»

Exemplary election in terms of ethics

 «If not for the revelation by conservative parliamentarian Rasa Juknevičienė that she has met Nausėda and that she has supposedly been asked by him to strip Vygantas Ušackas (a former presidential race contender in the Conservative primaries) off the HU-LCD membership, if not for the lashing out by some Catholic priests at Šimonytė as a pro-abortion and pro-gay rights candidate, the election would be exemplary, I mean in terms of ethics. We had neither black technologies, nor fishing expeditions and both candidates were pleasant and polite to each other. In a word, both were very sympathetic,» Vladas Gaidys, head of Vilmorus, a pollster, told BNN.

Šimonytė is being seen as liberal

Vytautas Dumbliauskas, associate professor at Vilnius’ Mykolas Romeris University, told BNN the ethic political campaign is due to two factors. «First, both candidates are very intelligent, non-scandalous and respectful people. We may have seen quite a different picture if there were other two candidates for the runoff. Besides, the society is changing – becoming more tactful,» he underscored. Asked to opine who will win in Sunday’s vote, Dumbliauskas reasoned it might depend on…rain. «If it rains, there will be a lower turnout at the voting precincts. With Saulius Skvernelis out of the race after the first election round, his supporters might not want to get wet and go out to vote,» the political analyst pondered. «Should they vote, the majority will support Nausėda, I believe,» he added. To the remark that Šimonytė is being shown by many as too liberal to be the Conservatives’ candidate, he answered that the times went voters of HU-LCD voted only for candidates speaking of the devotion to the Catholic Church and the hardcore Conservative tenets are gone. «The current Lithuanian Conservatives and their leader (Gabrielius Landsbergis) are pretty liberal. Many liberals joined the party after the troubles of the Lithuanian Liberal Movement,» he noted.

Outgoing president: Lithuania is lucky to have «worthy» candidates

Lithuania is fortunate to have two «worthy» candidates competing with each other to be elected president in Sunday’s runoff, outgoing President Dalia Grybauskaitė said on Tuesday, May 21. «All of us in Lithuania are fortunate that the second round will be a contest between the candidates who deserve to be in the second round,» she told reporters after casting her early vote at the Vilnius municipality building in Vilnius. The outgoing president would not reveal which of the candidates she voted for.


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