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Lithuania - Election 2009 - President

Following an 18 December 2008 Resolution of the Lithuanian Seimas, the unicameral parliament, Lithuanian voters were due to elect the President of the Republic of Lithuania for a five-year term on 17 May 2009, with a possible second round of voting on 7 June. The election legislation provided a thorough foundation for the conduct of elections in line with OSCE Commitments and international standards for democratic elections, and included a detailed framework for campaign finance and activities. However, it did not explicitly provide for election observation by either non-partisan or international observers, and is therefore not fully in line with the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document.

The election was administered by the Central Election Commission (CEC), 60 Municipal Election Commissions (MECs) and about 2,030 Polling District Commissions (PDCs). The CEC has extensive responsibilities and powers, as well as a wide supervisory role and enforcement capacity. The OSCE/ODIHR interlocutors expressed full confidence in the CEC. The voter lists were compiled by the CEC based on the data from population registers. A number of voting options provided by the legislation include early voting at municipal buildings, out-of-country voting, and postal voting for those who are in prisons, hospitals and military service.

The CEC registered seven candidates for the presidential election, and officially announced the list of candidates by 17 April, hence launching the official campaign. Most interlocutors did not expect a lively campaign, due to opinion poll data indicating an overwhelming lead of one candidate, and due to limited financial means. The election is taking place against the backdrop of an economy affected by the global financial crisis.

Lithuanias media environment is pluralistic and diverse, although some expressed concern regarding print media ethics. The campaign in the media is thoroughly regulated, including rules prohibiting political advertisement on national broadcasters, which according to some interlocutors decreases possibilities for a lively campaign.

The presidential election tookg place against the backdrop of an economy affected by the global financial crisis. In January 2009, demonstrations against a government package of anticrisis measures degenerated into riots in Vilnius when some protesters attempted to enter the Seimas building.

According to the Constitution, the President of the Republic is elected for a five-year term. All citizens of the Republic of Lithuania, who on the day of the election are 18 years old or over, have the right to vote for the President of the Republic. Article 81 of the Constitution sets forth the principles of the election system. A candidate can be elected during the first round of voting in two circumstances: (1) if more than half of the registered voters participated in the election, the candidate who obtained more than half of the votes of the voters who participated is elected, or (2) if less than half of the voters participated in the election, the candidate who received the greatest number of votes, but not less than one-third of votes of all registered voters is elected. If no candidate is elected during the first round, a run-off is held between the two candidates who received the highest number of votes. The candidate who receives the highest number of votes is then elected.

Initially fifteen persons submitted the relevant applications to the CEC. Fourteen nominations were accepted; one was rejected on the grounds that the person was not a Lithuanian by birth. Six nominated candidates failed to present the required 20,000 supporting signatures before the deadline of 2 April. The nominee of the National Resurrection Party, the Speaker of Parliament, A. Valinskas withdrew his application. After checking the signatures, the CEC registered all seven remaining candidates: D. Grybauskait, . Jezerskas, both individual nominations, K. Prunskien, the leader of the Peasant Party, however she is self-nominated for this election, A. Butkeviius, nominated by the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania, L. Graužinien, candidate of the Labour Party, V. Mazuronis, of the Order and Justice Party, and V. Tomaevski, from the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania.

During the weeks leading to the opening of candidates nominations, the publics attention focussed on the question of a possible candidacy of Ms. Dalia Grybauskait, currently a member of the European Commission. Ms. Grybauskait announced her intention to run as candidate on 26 February. Although not nominated by a political party, she enjoys the support of the Homeland Union Christian Democrats, who after internal debates, decided not to nominate a candidate of their own. Opinion polls placed Ms. Dalia Grybauskait as a frontrunner, with a significant lead ahead of the other contestants.

In May 2009, Dalia Grybauskaite, an Independent, overwhelmingly won Lithuanias presidential election, receiving 68% of the vote. She previously served as the EU Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget and is a former Lithuanian Finance Minister. Grybauskaite, who said her top priorities would be domestic issues, especially those relating to the Lithuanian economy, was inaugurated July 12, 2009 in Vilnius. Since becoming President, Grybauskaite has focused on action to mitigate the effects of the economic crisis; to recalibrate Lithuanias foreign policy to achieve balance in terms of relations with countries in the East, the EU, and the U.S.; and to assert stronger governmental oversight of the State Security Department.

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