Lithuania’s incumbent President Dalia Grybauskaite is widely tipped to win a second term in Sunday’s presidential election. Security concerns linked to the Ukraine crisis are a major factor.
Lithuanians began voting Sunday to elect a president with former European Union commissioner and karate black belt holder Dalia Grybauskaite holding a comfortable pre-poll lead.
Recent opinion polls showed the current president getting 47 percent support, with her closest rivals, Labor candidate Arturas Paulauskas and European Parliament member and Social Democrat Zigmantas Balcytis polling around 10 percent. They are not seen as a serious threat.
"If turnout exceeds 50 percent, she has quite a good chance of scoring a first round victory," Ramuas Vilpisauskas, a political scientist at Vilnius University told the AFP news agency.
Nicknamed the "Iron Lady" for her Thatcher-like resolve, 58-year-old Grybauskaite needs to garner more than 50 percent of the vote in order to avoid a run-off election on May 25.
Candidates need to win half the votes cast, with voter turnout greater than 50 percent to win the first round of voting.
In Lithuania's 2009 presidential election, Grybauskaite polled 69.04 percent of the vote in the seven candidate field. Voter turnout was at 51.67 percent.
Once under Soviet rule
Lithuania, once ruled by Moscow during the Cold War, has meant Grybauskaite's approval ratings have risen strongly after she rejected Russia's moves to annex Crimea and her support for increasing NATO forces in the country.
"Europe must understand that Russia is trying to redraw the post-war map and borders," Grybauskaite said recently.
"First it's Ukraine, Moldova will be next and, finally, it can reach the Baltic states and Poland. This is a serious threat to our region."
Educated in the Soviet Union and the US, Grybauskaite is an economist, serving as Lithuania's finance minister and EU budget commissioner before being elected as the country's first female president in 2009.
jlw/crh (AP, AFP)