Lithuania’s Nauseda wins first round of presidential election

Incumbent Gitanas Nauseda has won the first round of voting in Lithuania’s presidential election, putting him on track for a second and final term in office.

With nearly all of the votes counted, former banker Nauseda was on 46 percent, just short of the overall majority needed for a first-round victory.

Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte was second with 16 percent and the two will now go head-to-head in a run-off on May 26 in a repeat of the last election in 2019.

Eight candidates were on the ballot this time around, with campaigns largely focused on security issues and the threat posed by neighbouring Russia following its February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine. All the main candidates agreed the country, once part of the Soviet Union and now a member of NATO and the European Union, should boost defence spending to counter the perceived threat on its borders.

Nauseda, 59, said he was confident of victory in the second round and would require “no strategy” to campaign against Simonyte.

Both Nauseda and Simonyte support increasing defence spending to at least 3 percent of Lithuania’s gross domestic product (GDP), from the 2.75 percent planned for this year. The increase in spending would pay for the modernisation of Lithuania’s army and infrastructure ahead of the deployment of a brigade of German troops in Lithuania who are expected to be combat-ready from 2027.