Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda re-elected in landslide victory

27 May 2024, 10:04

Gitanas Nauseda
Lithuania Election. Picture: PA

The 60-year-old is a moderate conservative and has been a strong backer of Ukraine.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has secured a second five-year term in a landslide victory over prime minister Ingrida Simonyte.

Preliminary figures by Lithuania’s Central Electoral Commission showed that Mr Nauseda won 74.5% of the votes and Ms Simonyte 24.1%.

The 60-year-old Mr Nauseda is a moderate conservative and has been a strong backer of Ukraine, a position shared across most of the political spectrum. During his time in office, Lithuania has also given refuge to many who have fled an authoritarian crackdown in neighbouring Belarus and increased repression in Russia.

“Lithuania’s independence and freedom is like a fragile vessel that we must cherish, protect and prevent from cracking,” Mr Nauseda said on Sunday night after the ballots had been counted, the Baltic News Service reported.

Speaking of the Baltic country’s allies the United States, Germany, Poland, among others, he added: ″We have a very similar position on fundamental issues, like support for Ukraine, the attitude towards the Russian threat.″

Gitanas Nauseda
Gitanas Nauseda has won a landslide election victory in Lithuania (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

Mr Nauseda, a former banker, entered politics with his successful presidential run in 2019. He and Ms Simonyte won the first round but failed to muster the 50% of the votes needed to win the presidency outright.

The election comes as Russian gains in Ukraine are fuelling greater fears about Moscow’s intentions, particularly in the strategically important Baltic region.

Lithuania is north of Poland and south of the two other Baltic countries, Latvia and Estonia. It separates Belarus, an ally of Russia, from Kaliningrad, a heavily militarised Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea that is separated from the Russian mainland.

The president’s main tasks in Nato-member Lithuania’s political system are overseeing foreign and defence policy, along with acting as the supreme commander of the armed forces.

Given that Lithuania is strategically located on Nato’s eastern flank, the presidency of the relatively small nation has added importance as tensions rise between Russia and the West over the war in Ukraine.

Before the votes were counted on Sunday evening, Ms Simonyte conceded defeat and congratulated her opponent.

Both Mr Nauseda who ran as an independent candidate, and Ms Simonyte who became prime minister in 2020, have voiced support for Ukraine. The pair also ran against each other in a presidential runoff in 2019, when Mr Nauseda won with 66% of the votes.

Mr Nauseda will be sworn in for a new five-year term in July. Ms Simonyte said she will return to work as prime minister in Lithuania, a country of nearly three million people on Monday, Lithuanian television said.

Turnout in Sunday’s election was 49.15%.

By Press Association

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