Outgoing president Algirdas Brazauskas last night appeared on national television to urge Lithuanians to vote for Arturas Paulauskas in the December 21 presidential election. Brazauskas cited the presidential candidate’s young age, his consensus-building skills, and his commitment to clean government and to law and order. The president had until now signaled his backing for Paulauskas only indirectly. Considering the high level of public trust in Brazauskas, local observers expect that his endorsement has given Paulauskas a potentially decisive edge over the other candidates. In the last few days Paulauskas has also been officially endorsed by the Women’s Party of Kazimira Prunskiene, the first prime minister of the reborn state, as well as by the Polish Electoral Action, which represents Lithuania’s important Polish minority, and by ethnic Russian groups.
The left-of-center Democratic Labor Party (in power from 1992 to 1996) and the Liberal Union had sided with Paulauskas earlier in the race. He is now expected to win a plurality in the first round of the election and to go into the runoff from a position of strength against Lithuanian-American candidate Valdas Adamkus. Parliament chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, leader of the governing Fatherland Union, is ranked by opinion surveys as a distant third in the seven-candidate presidential race. (BNS, December 16-17)
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