Lithuanians are voting in a presidential runoff election, with Dalia Grybauskaite set to retain her post after pledging to reinforce the country’s defenses as Russian expansionism rattles the Baltic region. Grybauskaite, 58, garnered more than three times as many votes as her rival, former Finance Minister Zigmantas Balcytis, in the May 11 first round. Voting ends at 8 p.m. in the capital, Vilnius, with early results due about two hours later. Turnout was 7.4 percent as of 10 a.m., in addition to 6.6 percent in early voting, according to the election commission. Grybauskaite, a former European Union budget commissioner, used the campaign to focus on her defense credentials while accusing the government, led by allies of Balcytis, of inaction. The Baltic states are seeking permanent NATO bases to counter what they say is Russia’s military buildup in the region. The alliance has added air patrols and land troops in the region after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, which also holds a presidential election today.
Lithuania’s Dalia Grybauskaite faces a second runoff after falling shy of the 50% of votes needed to clinch a second term in Sunday’s presidential election, which was dominated by concerns about neighboring Russia and the Baltic nation’s exposure to the Ukraine crisis. With 100% of votes counted, Ms. Grybauskaite, currently in her first five-year term as president, had collected 46.6%. Her closest rival, a Social Democrat member of the European Parliament named Zigmantas Balcytis, had 13.8%, according to results released by Lithuania’s election commission Monday. The two will face off in a second round of elections on May 25 alongside European Parliament elections. Ms. Grybauskaite, a staunch independent and former EU commissioner known as a hard-nosed critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been vocal in her opinion that Ukraine should forge deeper alliances with the West. Her anti-Putin rhetoric boosted her popularity in the latest elections, according to polls published by Lithuanian media.