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Gitanas Nauseda from Lithuania wins presidential election

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Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda has emerged victorious in the final round of the country’s presidential election, with 90 percent of polling stations showing him securing three-quarters of the vote. His opponent, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, conceded defeat and congratulated Nauseda on his win. This marks the second time Nauseda and Simonyte have faced off in a presidential run-off election, with Nauseda previously defeating Simonyte in 2019.

As president, Nauseda holds a semi-executive role, overseeing the armed forces, chairing defense and national security policy, and representing Lithuania at NATO and EU summits. The former economist with SEB Group emerged as the frontrunner in the first round of the election, falling short of an outright victory with 44 percent of the vote. Simonyte, the only female candidate in the first round, came in second with 20 percent.

Both Nauseda and Simonyte advocate for increasing defense spending to at least 3 percent of Lithuania’s GDP, given concerns about potential aggression from Russia following the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Lithuania, along with other Baltic nations, is wary of becoming Moscow’s next target, despite reassurances from Russian President Vladimir Putin that no NATO countries are under threat.

The relationship between Nauseda and Simonyte has been scrutinized in foreign policy discussions, particularly regarding Lithuania’s stance on China. Tensions arose in 2021 when Vilnius permitted Taiwan to establish a de facto embassy under its own name, rather than using the capital, Taipei, to avoid upsetting Beijing. China responded by downgrading diplomatic relations with Lithuania and imposing trade restrictions, prompting some Lithuanian officials to consider repairing ties to protect the economy.

The outcome of Lithuania’s presidential election reflects the public’s preference for Nauseda over Simonyte, with Nauseda’s leadership experience and economic background likely playing a role in his victory. As Nauseda prepares to take on the responsibilities of the presidency, including managing defense priorities and representing Lithuania on the global stage, the country will be closely watching his administration’s approach to domestic and international issues.

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