As anticipated (see Monitor, December 9, 18), Arturas Paulauskas won a substantial plurality of the votes in the December 21 first round of Lithuania’s presidential election. According to preliminary data issued yesterday, Paulauskas garnered 45 percent of the vote, followed by the Lithuanian-American ecologist, Valdas Adamkus, with 28 percent, and by parliament chairman and head of the ruling Fatherland Union, Vytautas Landsbergis, with 16 percent. Four other candidates also ran. The turnout was 71 percent.
Paulauskas capitalized on an endorsement from Lithuania’s highly popular outgoing president, Algirdas Brazauskas. He was also helped by his young age; his image — he is a former prosecutor general — as an anti-corruption fighter; the support of ethnic minorities; and his claim to be independent of any political party. In actual fact, the Democratic Labor Party — which was in power from 1992 to 1996 — and the Liberal Union support the candidacy of Paulauskas.
The runoff on January 4 will pit Paulauskas, 44, against Adamkus, 71. Indications are multiplying that Landsbergis, the Fatherland Union, the Christian-Democratic allies of Landsbergis, and the Social-Democrat Party — whose candidate received six percent of the vote in the first round — are all throwing their support to Adamkus for the runoff. The governing FU and CD consider Paulauskas to be too far to the left of the political center. The Social-Democrats, who had earlier split from the Democratic Labor Party, regard Paulauskas as insufficiently concerned about social justice. His opponents are likely to depict Paulauskas as being close to the former Communist nomenklatura, parts of which have found their political niche in the DLP. The runoff seems set to turn into a close race. (BNS, Radio Vilnius, December 21-22)
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