The centre-left Democratic Union “For Lithuania” (Demokratų sąjunga “Tėvynės labui”), an opposition party led by former prime minister Saulius Skvernelis, has picked Giedrimas Jeglinskas as its nominee for next year’s presidential election.
Jeglinskas served as deputy defence minister between 2017-2019 and was subsequently NATO assistant secretary general for executive management until 2022.
“I bring Western culture, Western diplomatic experience, real working experience from global economic institutions. It is up to the voters to decide who to vote for, but I bring a very strong profile,” Jeglinskas said after he was announced as the party’s nominee on November 11.
The Democratic Union “For Lithuania” was founded in January 2022 by politicians who split from the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union.
Five candidates were proposed for the party’s nomination: Jeglinskas, former prime minister and party leader Saulius Skvernelis, another former prime minister and former social democrat Algirdas Butkevičius, former social security minister Linas Kukuraitis, and MP Vytautas Bakas. In the end, only Bakas and Jeglinskas, who is not a member, agreed to compete for the nomination and the party’s board selected the latter in a secret ballot.
“He is a friend of our party, the presidential candidate of our party, and a member of our community,” party leader Skvernelis said, announcing Jeglinskas’ nomination.
Speaking after the announcement, Jeglinskas said that raising Lithuania’s defence spending to 3 percent of GDP would be among his policy priorities.
“There has to be a sustainable path to security and that requires funding, which is probably more than 3 percent,” he told reporters. “We are in a geographical area where we have enemies and the aggressor is just around the corner.”
Skvernelis – who ran for president in 2019 and was third behind President Gitanas Nausėda and Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė – said that although Jeglinskas was not well-known as a politician, his experience in military policymaking is vital for Lithuania at this moment.
Jeglinskas graduated from the Military Academy at West Point in the United States with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. He also holds a Master’s Degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Columbia Business School in New York.
He is a former officer of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, and served as a squad leader in the Grand Duke Algirdas Mechanized Infantry Battalion. He also worked in military intelligence, and for Citigroup, and is currently employed with the Emerson Collective.
Lithuania is holding its presidential election next May. Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė has already announced her candidacy. She has been nominated by the ruling Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) party.The Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, currently the largest opposition party in parliament, is nominating former health minister Aurelija Veryga. The liberal Freedom Party has announced its candidate this week: law professor and former president of the Constitutional Court, Dainius Žalimas.
Several independent politicians have also announced plans to run for president: former Chief of Defence Valdas Tutkus, Kazlų Rūda Mayor Mantas Varaška, and activist Antanas Kandrotas, nicknamed Celofanas, who is on trial for organizing a riot near the parliament building in August 2021. President Gitanas Nausėda has yet to announce if he will run for re-election.
Opinion polls put the incumbent in the lead, followed by Ignas Vėgėlė, a lawyer who built up a political profile by opposing the government’s Covid-19 vaccine policies. He has not yet said if he is running either. Conservative Prime Minister Šimonytė is third in the polls.