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Voters to pick successor of Lithuania's popular 'Iron Lady'

AP  |  Vilnius (Lithuania) 

Nine candidates are vying in an election Sunday to become Lithuania's next president, including a well-known economist, a former minister and the incumbent

Term limits require the Baltic country's of state, Dalia Grybauskaite, to step down after two five-year terms. The election to choose the popular Grybauskaite's successor could go to a second-round vote.

The campaign has focused on domestic issues such as the economy, corruption and social welfare, even though foreign policy and defense are two of the presidency's main purviews.

The leading candidates include Saulius Skvernelis, 48; former Gitanas Nauseda, 54; and former Minister Ingrida Simonyte, 44.

In recent public opinion polls, Simonyte has been in front with support from more than 26% of likely voters, but Nauseda and Skvernelis aren't far behind.

Along with picking their president, voters on Sunday face a referendum on a constitutional amendment to allow dual citizenship for hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians living abroad.

A presidential runoff would be held May 26, the same day Lithuanians vote for their EU parliament representatives and another referendum on reducing the number of lawmakers in the 141-seat Seimas assembly.

Skvernelis, who was a before he entered politics, has suggested opening a dialogue with Russia, a departure from the recent governments in Vilnius, and floated the idea of moving the from to

If the wins, it would be seen as "a concentration of political powers" for his ruling Peasant Greens Union party, said Tomas Janeliunas, a at the and Political Science at University.

Grybauskaite's anti-views, no-nonsense style and karate black belt earned her the "Iron Lady" label previously applied to when she was British prime minister.

today is very different from the one Grybauskaite became of in 2009.

"Ten years ago, our country was severely affected by the financial crisis and fully dependent on Russian gas, with no real existing NATO defense plans," she told

Now is a "strong and prosperous state" that has diversified its and like its Baltic neighbors, joined NATO as well as the European Union, Grybauskaite said.

A vital job of successor will be staying alert to Russia's military activity in the region, she said.

"The geopolitical situation will remain tense," the outgoing said.

"Therefore, further measures to increase military security, defense, and deterrence capabilities, fight aggressive propaganda, cyber and other hybrid threats will remain among the top priorities.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, May 10 2019. 13:01 IST