Simonyte vs Nauseda: What can Belarus expect of would-be president of Lithuania?

MP Ingrida Simonyte, who won by a narrow margin in the first round of the Lithuanian presidential elections on Sunday, and a runner-up, economist Gitanas Nauseda, are ready to face-off with each other in a runoff vote on May, 26.

As reported earlier, 31.16% of voters cast their ballots for Gitanas Nauseda who trailed only Ingrida Simonyte (31.35%). Incumbent Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis became a third-largest player (19.86%).

The issue of Vilnius-Minsk relations itself, especially the question of the Astravets NPP, remains one of the major concerns in Lithuania, Belarusian political analyst Andrey Kazakevich warns.

According to him, whatever the outcome, one should not expect any rapid breakthrough. As the Lithuanian political elite’s position is unified enough, and all this could be reshaped only in consequence of long-lasting consultations and negotiations, it would be naive to assume that something will change after the second round, the expert stressed.

“Saulius Skvernelis’ being elected as President might be more advantageous for the Belarusian authorities. He shows off more pragmatism and hardly pays special attention to, for example, human rights issues and other problematic aspects of the Belarusian-Lithuanian relations,” Kazakevich believes.

The two frontrunners, Simonyte and Nauseda, seem to be a bit more critical of the Lukashenka regime:

“We can be good neighbours, but several conditions should be fulfilled. As a member of the EU, we cannot accept Belarus [authorities] approach to democratic values. For example, what has recently happened in Kurapaty, i.e. demolishing the crosses is an act of vandalism, state-run vandalism! Another matter of concern is Russia-Belarus close military cooperation,” Ingrida Simonyte said.

“Back in the day, we were in the same state – the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. This fact creates an emotional background that matters to me. I think that Lithuanians are well-disposed towards Belarusians. We look forward to having an independent Belarusian state as a neighbour in the medium- and long run. And we will treat Belarus as an independent state and help as much as we can,” Gitanas Nauseda said.

Presidential elections in Lithuania: Runoff vote looming

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