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News Analysis: interesting president election expected in Lithuania

English.news.cn   2014-05-21 08:35:46

VILNIUS, May 20 (Xinhua) -- The Lithuanians will decide on Sunday whether to bestow the incumbent president the second five-year term or choose a new leader.

The incumbent president Dalia Grybauskaite will face a run-off against social democrat candidate Zigmantas Balcytis who has support from the country's Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius.

Grybauskaite, nonpartisan participant of the elections, is supported by the traditional right Lithuanian Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrat Party, which is currently in opposition to ruling social democrats coalition.

Grybauskaite gathered 45.9 percent of votes in the first round, falling short of the higher than 50 percent requirement by the constitution needed to directly win the election. Balcytis received 13.6 percent of votes.

Analysts agree that Grybauskaite has secured healthy support to win the second round, however, they expect an interesting race, mostly because the main points of the two candidates' programs are quite similar, based on pro-European values.

Both candidates have European career and experience in finance governing in their background.

Grybauskaite served as finance minister of Lithuania from 2001 to 2004.

In 2004, the year when the Baltic country joined the EU, Grybauskaite was appointed EU commissioner responsible for financial programming and budget.

Balcytis is the current member of European Parliament and former finance minister of Lithuania (2005-2007).

Grybauskaite's slogan in the election is "I trust Lithuania."

Balcytis' program is named "Working, gaining and united Lithuania."

Both the incumbent president and her challenger are supporters of euro introduction in Lithuania and call for the country's energy independence.

Their rhetoric over crisis in Ukraine is slightly different, though, with Grybauskaite being a vocal critic of Russia's actions in Ukraine and Balcytis declaring more restrained attitude and claiming the need of pragmatic foreign policy, including dialogue with Russia.

"There is some room for rhetoric mistakes (in Grybauskaite's case)," Vladas Gaidys, director of public opinion and market research company Vilmorus said to Xinhua.

Nevertheless, according to Gaidys, even in case of such mistakes, the gap between the two candidates is spectacular.

"The support for the incumbent president is nearly three times bigger than to her rival. We haven't seen that before," said Gaidys.

Kestutis Girnius, Lithuanian political scientist and historian, suggests that Grybauskaite's visibility in the country's political life, possibility to show her powers and lack of strong challengers would let her expect victory in the second round.

"In the face of geopolitical crisis, she acts like a real president.

She speaks about bolstering air policing mission over the Baltics, she welcomes the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden.

And, obviously, she did not face any of her main rivals (during elections)," Girnius was quoted as saying by local media.

Grybauskaite and Balcytis will meet for their final and crucial debates this Thursday.

The president of Lithuania decides and, together with government, conducts the basic issues of foreign policy. The president is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the country.

At the same time, the president holds the right of legislative initiative in the Parliament (Seimas) and the right to veto the laws. He or she also appoints judges and acts as guarantor of effective judiciary.

Nevertheless, the president needs approval of the parliament or the prime minister for most of the appointments.

Editor: Mengjie
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