Lithuanians return to polls in presidential election 2nd round

Lithuanians went to the polls on Sunday for the second round of the country’s presidential election, with incumbent president Gitanas Nausėda aiming to fend off prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė for another five-year term. 

Sixty-year-old Nausėda, a moderate conservative and strong supporter of Ukraine, has been in office since 2019. He is seen as a favourite to win.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m., with early voters in Vilnius arriving even before the official start. 

Nearly 2 million citizens are eligible to vote in this eighth presidential election since Lithuania’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. 

Voting continues until 8 p.m., and results are expected to be announced on Monday by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC).

Nausėda and Šimonytė, both vocal critics of Russia and Belarus, failed to secure a majority in the first round on May 12. 

Nausėda led with 44% of the votes, while Šimonytė garnered nearly 20%. 

This runoff mirrors the 2019 election, where Nausėda defeated Šimonytė with 66% of the votes.

Possible Russian sabotage

The election occurs amid heightened tensions in the Baltic region. 

Reports this week suggested Russia might revise its territorial waters’ borders in the Baltic Sea, prompting Lithuania’s foreign minister to call for a “firm response” to what he termed an “obvious escalation.”

Concerns of Russian sabotage are growing as details emerge about mysterious attacks on Lithuanian and Polish facilities. 

Lithuanian law enforcement remains tight-lipped, but former officials warn that such incidents could increase as part of Russia’s broader strategy in its war with Ukraine. 

Earlier this month, a fire at an IKEA store in Vilnius, initially suspected as arson, was later confirmed as sabotage. 

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk claimed a series of arson attacks in both Poland and Lithuania were orchestrated by Russia.

Lithuania, a NATO member, plays a strategic role on the alliance’s eastern flank, making the presidential role particularly significant given the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. 

Both candidates have maintained strong stances against Moscow’s aggression, aligning with the country’s foreign policy priorities.

As Lithuanians await the results, the election’s outcome will be closely watched, given the broader geopolitical implications for the region.

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