The women who want to be Lithuania's new president

Who are the women running for the Lithuanian presidency and will they further extend the ten years of female leadership begun by current President Dalia Grybauskaitė?

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Lithuania
The women who want to be Lithuania's new president - NewsMavens
Ingrida Šimonytė and Dr Aušra Maldeikienė, YouTube

Why this story matters:

Ingrida Šimonytė, a non-partisan economist who has led the Ministry of Finance throughout the painful years of economic crisis, has recently announced her decision to run in the presidential election.

If elected by popular vote, Šimonytė would be the second female president after Dalia Grybauskaitė, who is serving her second term, and would project a rather similar image: stern, no-nonsense, fiscally conservative but socially rather liberal.

Grybauskaitė and Šimonytė have survived the crisis and austerity period with their reputations intact, because Lithuanians trusted -- and still do -- their rationality and sense of proportion. However, Šimonytė shuns comparisons with the incumbent and says these emerge only because there are so few women in politics.

Dr Aušra Maldeikienė, also an economist, announced her decision to run for president earlier and, unlike Šimonytė, is not predicted to be among the favourites. Maldeikienė, whose name means "dawn", chose an electoral slogan that proclaims, "Dawn comes after darkness." She has repeatedly tried to shake the label of "leftist", after harshly criticizing austerity measures of past governments and speaking out against social exclusion. She calls herself a Christian Democrat, but believes that her faith does not put her above others, and she is one of the few politicians strongly in favour of introducing gender-neutral civil partnership. She has authored multiple economics textbooks, and her latest book is called "Economy of lies".

There are also two former diplomats, MPs, an MEP, a far-right philosopher and a free market fundamentalist running in the elections. In Lithuania, the president is directly elected but is not the head of government. The government is formed by the ruling party or coalition, but the president can initiate and veto legislative bills.

Details from the story:

  • Ingrida Šimonytė, a former finance minister, has announced her decision to participate in the presidential elections in 2019.
  • She will face former diplomat Vygaudas Ušackas in a preliminary vote within the Conservative party, Homeland Union, which will decide which candidate to support.
  • Šimonytė is fiscally conservative, but finds the current (centre-left, agrarian) government too intent on various prohibitions, which, in her words, put free people off. As president, she said she would guarantee that the majority would not overpower minorities, and that human rights and liberties would be respected.
  • According to Rimvydas Valatka, a political observer interviewed for the article in Lietuvos Žinios, having been a bureaucrat all her life is a major disadvantage for Šimonytė, "However, she is a charming woman, she knows how to speak and is able to explain complicated things in a way that common people understand," he believes.
  • Tomas Janeliūnas, a university professor, also commented that the candidate has good communication skills and comes across as sincere.
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