The Lithuanian Presidential race kicks off
A long awaited Lithuanian Presidential election marathon has started yesterday in Vilnius. On Feb 26 the Central Electorate Committee declared a beginning of the candidates registration. The candidates could register until March 13. The first day of registration saw influx of the hopefuls. However, the main question, which was bothering all Lithuania, was will the EU Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget Ms Dalia Grybauskaite will enter the race. All Lithuania’s media spot light at noon was directed to the BNS press conference room where the Commissioner was to announce about her decision. And so she did, Gyrbauskaite will run for the Presidential seat.
She made a statement: “I’ve decided that I’m ready to return to Lithuania as long as the people of Lithuania decide that I’m currently needed here. I’ve understood that we’ve all missed the truth and responsibility for our country. We want to live free of fear, want trust in ourselves, each other and in what the future may bring. I am able to and wish to devote my experience, knowledge and skills to cast out the moral, political and economic shadows and create a different Lithuania – a Lithuania for the public, a public state. Therefore, I will run in elections for Lithuanian President”.
According to the BNS Ms Grybauskaite will be looking forward to and requesting volunteer organizational support from individuals, parties and other structures and will be open to financial support without commitments. The Commissioner also noted that her election campaign will be modest, as should be the case with all candidates during this downfall.
The entry of the heavy weight into the race has drastically altered chanced of the other candidates. The main political parties, such as the Conservatives and the Social Democrats have not officially declared their candidates yet.
The Conservative party leader and the PM Kubilius openly support Grybauskaite as the party’s nominee. However, some the conservatives would like to see their party member running for the post, and many think that Prof Landsbergis would be the best candidate. The others in the party are convinced that by nominating Landsbergis the party would do a favour to Grybauskaite, since the Commissioner’s support for the unpopular reforms by the majority Conservative government might damage her chances. The party will nominate its candidate, or declare a support to for a candidate on March 7.
The Social Democrats are still discussing the possible candidate from the party. The party leader and former PM Kirkilas understands that he has very slim chances and is already looking forwards to become a member of the European Parliament. The pensioner number one in Lithuania Brazauskas did not yet reveal his decision regarding participation in the upcoming elections, saying that the running of the popular candidate Grybauskaite would not influence his choice. “I have already made the decision and will reveal it in party forums,” he told BNS on Feb 26. The Social Democratic Party is also expected to decide on its candidate for president during its council meeting and congress due on March 7.
As the BNS writes the Central Electoral on Feb 26 also received applications filed by candidate of the Order and Justice Party Valentinas Mazuronis, followed by Reserve Brigadier General Ceslovas Jezerskas, Parliamentary Speaker and National Resurrection Party candidate Arunas Valinskas, independent candidate and Chairwoman of the Peasant Popular Union Kazimiera Prunskiene and other two canditates.
The Lithuanian media more or less agrees that out of those who registered on Feb 26 only the speaker Valinskas has a chance to reach the second round in the Presidential elections. That would be a best possible result for him. Many predict that a single election round will be enough, and Ms Gybauskaite will receive necessary 50 percent of all votes.
Grybauskaite for many a month has been topping public opinion polls on most popular public figures, and in Feb outran President Valdas Adamkus appearing first on the said list. Some 26 percent of polled inhabitants indicated Grybauskaite as a politician best representing their interests, with Adamkus in second place with 11 percent respondent support.
However, this assumption would not be valid if a second round will be needed. In the presidential elections in 2002 Adamkus was a clear front-runner in the first tour, leaving way behind the number two candidate Paksas. However, Paksas managed to win during the second round. A second round of elections may be inevitable, as the candidate list is likely to be long, said Grybauskaite.
The Lithuanian official is not yet planning to resign her post in the European Commission (EC) and will take unpaid vacation only from April 17, when the presidential election campaign officially kicks off.
As she said during the press conference on Feb 26 her final decision to run in the elections was prompted by the Jan 16 events in Vilnius, when a peaceful protest against government policy turned to riots. “I think my understanding of responsibility kicked in at that point”.
As the BNS reminds Dalia Grybauskaite was born on March 1 of 1956 received a political economy diploma from Leningrad’s (currently Saint Petersburg) Zdanov University in 1983 and got her PhD in Economics in Moscow’s Academy of Sciences in 1988. After returning in 1983 to Lithuania she became a secretary of the then Academy of Sciences and lectured economics in the Communist Vilnius College during 1983 to 1990.
She was secretary of science in the Institute of Economics in 1990 to 1991, department head in the International Economic Relations Ministry and the Foreign Ministry from 1991 to 1994. In 1995, Grybauskaite represented Lithuania, as the top negotiator on the European Union (EU) Treaty was envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the Lithuanian mission to the EU, the BNS writes.
Grybauskaite worked as minister plenipotentiary in the Lithuanian Embassy to the United States, was deputy finance and foreign affairs minister in 1999 to 2001 and headed the Ministry of Finance from 2001 to 2004 (when Mr Brazauskas was PM), at which time she became member of the European Commission for Financial Programming and Budget.
Grybauskaite in 2004 was elected Commissioner of the year and her mandate as the EU commissioner expires on Nov. 1.
The Commissioner speaks English, Russian, Polish and French.
As the BNS reminds March 13 will be the last day for parties and non-affiliated individuals to hand in documents on candidates planning to run in the presidential race.
Candidates will receive election signature blanks in a matter of three days after turning in all necessary documents to the Central Electoral Committee.
By April 2 the signatures of 20,000 Lithuania’s citizens in favour of the candidate’s running for president need to be presented to the committee.
On April 17, the Central Electoral Committee will announce the list of persons registered as running for president, with this day also marking the beginning of the election campaign.
The first round of the presidential elections is scheduled for May 17, with the second planned for June 7 in conjunction with the elections to the European Parliament.