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European Union Budget Chief Wins in a Landslide in Lithuania


The European Union's budget commissioner has won Lithuania's presidential election getting roughly 69 percent of the vote according to official results. The results are just about what early exit polls had indicated. Voter turnout was about 51 percent on Sunday meaning a runoff election is not needed.

Even before the exit poll results were announced, when she cast her ballot in front of an army of reporters, Dalia Grybauskaite appeared confident she would become Lithuania's first female president.

First polls showed that most voters believe Grybauskaite has what it takes to lead the country out of its most serious economic crisis in years.

According to the exit polling, only about one in ten voters favored her closest rival, Social Democrat lawmaker Algirdas Butkevicius.

The winner of the presidential election will replace President Valdas Adamkus who is stepping down in July after completing a second and final five-year term

Analysts say Lithuania's main political parties and politicians are widely disliked because of the current economic downturn, and their reputations have been overshadowed by corruption allegations.

The 53-year-old Grybauskaite, who is the European Union's budget commissioner, decided to run for president as an independent after public anger flared in January over Lithuania's economic collapse.

A rock-throwing crowd attacked parliament in what observers described as the worst street violence the Baltic nation had seen since it regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Grybauskaite told journalists Sunday that the economic tensions show it is time for change in the country.

She explains that she voted for herself as in her words "Lithuania's local political establishment is so boring for people, that they want to see some new faces." Grybauskaite adds that "in this difficult times she wants to give her experience" as European Commissioner to her Baltic nation.

Grybauskaite would inherit leadership of a country that was long considered more stable than its Baltic neighbors. But just released EU statistics show the economy plummeted nearly ten percent in the first quarter of 2009, compared to the previous three months. Unemployment in March stood at more than 15 percent, a dramatic jump from just over four percent a year earlier.

Grybauskaite has said she wants to help formulate a policy that will stabilise public finances, stimulate exports, absorb EU aid faster and provide tax breaks for small and medium-sized businesses.

After a presidential election, the government has to resign and be re-appointed. Although the new president is likely to nominate the same prime minister, Grybauskaite has not ruled out choosing new ministers.

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