Vilnius mayor-elect Šimašius pledges more transparency

Remigijus Šimašius
DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

“We should talk about what we will have – openness, more community spirit, efficiency and fair decisions. Everything will be clear and transparent,” Šimašius, a member of the Liberal Movement, said in his election bureau in early hours of Monday.

The mayor-elect pledged that “Vilnius residents will no longer wonder why one street is being renovated before the other or why one school gets more funding”.

In run-off voting in Lithuania’s first direct mayoral elections on Sunday, MP Šimašius secured 61.95 percent of the vote, while incumbent Mayor Artūras Zuokas of the Lithuanian Freedom Union (liberals) was supported by 36.84 percent of voters.

Šimašius said he would not be surprised to find the debt-ridden Vilnius municipality in a worse financial condition than it had been announced. In his words, he will now face a “difficult task” of borrowing 70 million euros to pay municipal employees and cover other necessary expenses.

The new leader of the city also said that the municipal taxi company Vilnius Veža, created by his predecessor, would be sold, with plans to search for an investor for the national airline Air Lituanica.

Meanwhile Zuokas, who has lost his post, said he would focus on national politics, admitting that Vilnius residents wanted changes in the capital.

“It is probably too early to consider and analyze but, as far as I heard during the campaign, there is a simple strife for something new. (I worked for) Three terms, and they want something new,” said Zuokas.

He said that working in the opposition was “not entirely (his) character and type” but pledged to support any work needed for Vilnius.

Šimašius, 41, is a lawyer by education who worked at the Lithuanian Free Market Institute between 1995 and 2008. He was a member of the Vilnius City Council in 2001-2006, served as justice minister in the centre-right government in 2008-2012 and currently works at the parliament’s Economic Committee.

Zuokas, 47, has been the mayor of the Lithuanian capital since April 2011 after heading the city in 2003-2007.

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