Lithuanian president in hot water over coffee invitation to voters

  • 2024-02-23
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has been forced to "revise" his recent invitation to meet voters who have signed for him (as a presidential candidate – BNS) for coffee after complaints were received by the Central Electoral Commission.

"In order to avoid violating the Election Code of the Republic of Lithuania and burdening the Central Electoral Commission with additional work, I am revising my post," the president posted on Facebook. "I am inviting people who have signed for me to meet me in a café, outside working hours. Each participant will pay for the coffee/tea personally. I will be grateful if I am not deprived of the opportunity to meet and talk to people who support me as a candidate."

In his social media post on Thursday, Nauseda said he would have coffee with several people who would sign for him.

"I would be happy to have a coffee with her or him who will sign for me: the 5000th, 7500th, 10000th, 15000th, 20000th person. If you have managed to sign this way, please send a screenshot of it to [email protected] and I will invite you to meet me for a cup of coffee. We will have a frank discussion about books, basketball and the future of Lithuania," Nauseda wrote.

CEC chair Lina Petroniene told the public radio LRT on Friday that the election watchdog had received complains about the president's invitation.

"We will collect information after receiving inquiries and then we will decide whether to open an investigation or not, and once this information appeared in public, we contacted the candidate and reminded him of the provisions of the Election Code on gifts during voting and collecting signatures," Petroniene told the radio. "Coffee is a material benefit unless voters pay for it themselves."

By Friday morning, more than 8,000 people have electronically supported Nauseda's candidacy.

Presidential candidates can collect signatures until March 28. Nominated by the ruling conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte collected the required number of electronic signatures on the first day.

As presidential candidates started collecting signatures, the CEC also warned people to beware of scammers who have been sending messages with links to sign for a candidate. The CEC stresses that it does not residents' contact information and does not send such messages. 

The presidential election will take place on May 12.