Lithuanians have begun voting to elect their president, with incumbent “Iron Lady” Dalia Grybauskaite a shoo-in as fears in the EU Baltic state soar over a resurgent Russia.
The karate black belt, nicknamed for her Thatcheresque resolve, is poised to win a second term as many here who remember Soviet times see her as a their best hope amid Europe’s worst stand-off with Moscow since the Cold War.
A former EU budget chief, the 58-year-old Grybauskaite is likely to score over 50 per cent of the vote, recent opinion surveys showed, but low turnout could trigger a May 25 run-off in this NATO member country.
Six other candidates have all polled around 10 per cent and are not regarded as serious rivals.
“If turnout exceeds 50 per cent, she has quite a good chance of scoring a first round victory,” Ramunas Vilpisauskas, a political scientist at Vilnius University, told AFP.
A candidate must win half of the votes cast with a turnout of at least 50 per cent to win in round one.
In 2009, Grybauskaite captured a resounding 69.04 per cent of the vote in the seven-candidate first round with turnout at 51.67 per cent.
This election comes as Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and sabre rattling in the neighbouring Russian exclave of Kaliningrad have sparked palpable fear in Lithuania, a country of three million.
Voting began on Sunday at 0400 GMT (1400 AEST) and is due to end at 1700 GMT (0300 Monday AEST).