Lithuana's PM Saulius Skvernelis to quit after poor result

The PM was surprisingly knocked out of the euro-area member’s presidential election on Sunday

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis

Lithuanian PM Saulius Skvernelis announced he will step down after failing to qualify for the second round in the country's presidential election. Skvernelis, who was one of the expected frontrunners in the vote, said his planned resignation as PM will happen on 12 July.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, the politician admitted defeat but said he had "really believed" he would get through to the next stage.

“I have to feel the backing of people,” he said. “The reforms aren’t easy and to continue you need to feel people behind you. If these policies aren’t acceptable to the people of Lithuania, it’s an assessment of me as a politician.”

The announcement came shortly after partial results suggested a big change for the Baltic state’s political landscape, with a crisis-era finance minister Ingrida Simonyte and the former chief economist of SEB Bank AB Gitanas Nauseda overcoming anti-elite rhetoric similar to that seen in races for this month’s European Union parliamentary elections. They fended off attacks from Skvernelis, who tried to cast blame on his establishment-linked rivals and the central bank for the second-highest economic inequality in the EU.

According to most recent updates, Ingrida Simonyte, who ran the Finance Ministry when the global financial crisis hammered the Baltic state’s economy a decade ago, beat former SEB Bank Chief Economist Gitanas Nauseda by a razor-thin margin. She had 31.13% of votes compared to Nauseda’s 30.95%, a difference of fewer than 3,000 votes, according to the Electoral Commission. Skvernelis, on the other hand, had just under 20%.

The pair is now expected to face each other in a run-off at the end of the month, with the winner succeeding the current President Dalia Grybauskaite after her second and final five-year term. Although she was criticised by Skvernelis for being too harsh against Lithuania’s neighbor, both candidates who beat him also pledged to maintain her stance on sanctions imposed after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine.

The run-off is due to take place on 26 May.

Lithuania’s president has limited powers over domestic issues but can appoint judges and other officials and grants government-forming mandates after elections.

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