News2019.05.27 07:58

Gitanas Nausėda elected new president of Lithuania

BNS, 2019.05.27 07:58

Independent candidate, 55-year-old economist Gitanas Nausėda won a decisive victory in Lithuania's presidential runoff. His opponent Ingrida Šimonytė called to congratulate Nausėda less than two hours after the polling stations closed.

Nausėda said his victory speech in front of the presidential palace a little after 11 PM on Sunday night.

"I can say that things will be different," he told the crowd before summarizing his path towards the presidency in the speech.

With votes from all polling districts tallied, Nausėda received over 868,000 votes, or 66 percent, against Šimonytė's 429,000, or 33 percent. 

Nausėda's support doubled compared with the first round of voting two week ago, while his contender lost some of the votes. 

Voter turnout in the presidential runoff was 53.43 percent, the Central Electoral Commission, or VRK, said after the polls closed at 8 PM on Sunday.

Talking to reporters in his campaign headquarters earlier on Sunday night, the newly-elected president vowed to work with the parliament and the government toward reducing the social divide in the country.

"I hope that together with other state institutions, we'll manage to find that common ground toward achieving one goal, which is making life in Lithuania better, making everyone in Lithuania feel better, ensuring that there is more mutual respect in Lithuania and less bullying, and that the old and the young, the better off and the worse off, someone who lives on the periphery and someone who lives in the centre or the capital get along with each other," he said.

Nausėda said he would like to live in his own home in Pavilnys, a suburb of Vilnius, but he will have to discuss this issue with the VIP protection department.

Šimonytė said as yearly as two hours after the polling stations closed that she already phoned her opponent to congratulate with victory.

Soon afterwards, the incumbent president, Dalia Grybauskaitė, also phoned Nausėda to congratulate on victory. The outgoing leader wished her successor strength and success in fulfilling voters' expectations, Grybauskaitė's press office said.

The turnout rate is lower than in the first round two week ago, but higher than in the second round of voting in the 2014 presidential election.

Change of rhetoric but not stance towards Russia

Nausėda said on Sunday he would change the rhetoric toward Russia somewhat, but no substantial changes would occur until Moscow alters its behavior toward Ukraine.

"I would like to be diplomatic and use wording which could be slightly different from the wording we used previously," he told reporters in English after the polls closed.

Nausėda underlined, however, that Lithuania's relations with Russia would not change substantially "if the situation in Ukraine is similar, like this".

The candidate said he views Russia's actions in Ukraine as aggression toward the neighboring country.

"We cannot tolerate this," he said.

The EU has imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and its support for separatists in the eastern part of the country.

Maintain 'respect'

"The higher turnout rate is a reflection of more active civic involvement. This means those sympathizing with both candidates turned out," Nausėda said.

"I believe the election campaign was of a high standard and, as many observers and (former) President Valdas Adamkus have noted, this was indeed a reflection of European culture; that was one candidate's respect for another candidate," he said.

Nausėda called on everyone to maintain respect regardless of the election results.

"I'm talking about my respect for Ingrida, Ingrida's respect for me (and) that parties should remain willing to cooperate," he said.

The candidate also said if elected president, he would seek an agreement among political parties on improving the situation in healthcare and education.

The new president will take office on July 12 after being sworn in an inauguration ceremony.

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