The European Union’s budget commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite is the clear favourite to win Lithuania’s presidential election. At a time of deep economic recession and disenchantment with politicians, the country’s former finance minister, who is running as an independent, looks set to garner 60 per cent of the vote.
After casting her ballot in the capital Vilnius she told reporters, “the people want to see new faces”. Polls say the karate black belt could win without needing a second round of voting and if elected she would become Lithuania’s first ever female president. Her closest rival is Algirdas Butkevicius, the leader of the opposition Social Democrat Party. He is forecast to get a meagre 8.4 per cent of the vote. He is hoping that if Grybauskaite fails to get 50 per cent of votes cast, he will have a better chance in a run-off vote which would then be held next month. After enjoying years of impressive growth since it joined the European Union in 2004, Lithuania is experiencing double-digit economic contraction and soaring unemployment. Public anger led to street clashes with security forces early this year when demonstrators smashed windows in the parliament building in Vilnius. Polling stations have now closed and the count is underway.