22/12/2002 - Analysis - 1st round
Just one week before the first round of the Lithuanian presidential election, the present President of the Republic Valdas Adamkus is far ahead of his rivals in all the opinion polls. A survey by the Spinter institute, published last week in the magazine Veidas, credits him with 32.1% of the intention to vote far ahead of his main adversary Arturas Paulauskas, leader of the Union of New Liberal Socialists (NS-SL), who should win 10.7%. In addition to this the President is pulling ahead in the opinion polls (+ 3.3 points since October) whilst Arturas Paulauskas has fallen behind by 3.5 points. Behind these two men four candidates are credited with over 5% of the vote. These are Rolandas Paksas, leader of the Liberal Democrat Party who has 8.5% of the intention to vote (progressing by 0.8 points since October), Kazimieras Bobelis, MP and leader of the Christian Democrat Party (LKDP) who has 8% of the vote (-1 point in comparison with October), Vytenis Andriukaitis, MP, Social Democrat Party of Lithuania (LSDP) credited with 5.5% of the vote (-0.7 points) and finally Eugenijus Gentvilas, leader of the Liberal Union (LLS), with 5.2% (- 0,3 points).
Valdas Adamkus, who is 75 years old is the least popular candidate amongst the younger population (18-24 year olds) unlike his main adversary Arturas Paulauskas. The majority of the eldest voters have declared that they are in favour of Kazimieras Bobelis whilst many living in the countryside, a major part of the population in this extremely agricultural country, are giving their vote to Vytenis Andriukaitis.
Valdas Adamkus should therefore take the lead in the first round of the presidential election but without however managing to assert himself outright. He will, according to all probability, face Arturas Paulauskas again, who was also his adversary during the presidential election of 4th January 1998 and whom he managed to beat by a narrow margin.
A month before the European Council in Copenhagen on 12th and 13th December when Lithuania officially became a member of the European Union, the latter managed to reach an agreement with The Russian Federation on the Kaliningrad enclave. The former German town of Königsberg, where the philosopher Emmanuel Kant was born and renamed Kaliningrad when it was taken by the Soviets in 1945, is the home for a major Russian naval base on the Baltic Sea. Over 1 million people live in this extremely poor enclave that is a fishing port equipped with canning factories and some mechanical industries. In order to attract investments Russia has transformed Kaliningrad into a Economic Free Zone. The agreement that was signed on 11th November between the European Union and Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, plans to facilitate the granting of transit documents (FTD), i.e. multiple exit and entry visas will be provided free of charge or for a small amount of money by Lithuania to travellers (Russians, Byelorussians or Ukrainians) who are travelling across its territory by train or car to Kaliningrad. This system will be reviewed in 2005 at the latest. Domestic Russian passports will be sufficient to obtain a visa; they will then be replaced by international passports. In addition to this the construction of a high speed train to ensure the connection between Kaliningrad and Russia is being considered. The specific question of the Russian enclave will be added to the membership Treaty of the Baltic Republic to the European Union.
Lithuania estimates that the launch of these agreements and the organisation of the Russian transit towards the enclave of Kaliningrad will cost over 30 billion euros. In addition to this Prime Minister Algirdas Mykolas Brazauskas has recently indicated that the EU will pay Lithuania 136 million euros to Lithuania to strengthen its borders. "Our border with Byelorussia and Russia that will become the border with the EU is 920Km long and we need help in applying the Schengen rules" declared the Prime Minister.