Lithuania votes for new president

Other News Materials 17 May 2009 08:26 (UTC +04:00)

People in Lithuania elect a new president on Sunday amid widespread concern about the economic downturn, BBC reported.

The clear favourite among the seven candidates is Dalia Grybauskaite, the European Union's budget commissioner.

She has been critical of the way the country's economy has been handled by governments in the past.

She could win without needing a second round of voting, and if elected she would become Lithuania's first ever female president.

Lithuania's crashing economy has dominated what little policy debate this presidential election has caused.

After enjoying years of impressive growth since it joined the European Union in 2004, Lithuania is experiencing double digit economic contraction and rising unemployment.

Frustration turned into violence in January when demonstrators smashed windows in the parliament building in Vilnius.

Those scenes caused Ms Grybauskaite, the EU's tough-talking budget commissioner, to announce her candidacy as an independent.

The 53-year-old, who has a black belt in karate, is widely seen as being a level-headed caretaker.

Based in Brussels, she has also avoided being tainted by domestic scandals.

That has put her way ahead of her rivals in the opinion polls - with Social Democrat Algirdas Butkevicius her nearest challenger - which suggest she could achieve an outright victory on Sunday.

If she fails to gain 50% of the vote, with at least 50% of the country's 2.6 million voters turning out, a run-off will be held on 7 June.