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Ex-PM Wins Upset Victory in Lithuania Elections


In Lithuania, former Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas has scored an upset victory in a runoff election for president, defeating incumbent Valdas Adamkus, who had been heavily favored in pre-election polls. The victory of Mr. Paksas, who is considered right of center politically, has raised concerns that it may now be more difficult for Lithuania to enter the European Union.

Mr. Paksas won about 55 percent of the vote, while Mr. Adamkus had about 45 percent in Sunday's election.

Opinion polls prior to the vote had shown a comfortable lead for President Adamkus, a 76-year-old former U.S. citizen who helped Lithuania win membership in the NATO alliance and the European Union.

In televised remarks late Sunday, Mr. Paksas assured Lithuanians that the country's western-oriented foreign policy would not change. He also said his first official visit would be to Brussels to meet EU leaders and clarify the situation on certain points that he said he finds dissatisfactory.

Analysts say his remarks are meant to quell critic's fears that a Paksas victory would hurt Lithuania's EU membership bid.

The newly elected president has criticized the center-left coalition government of Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, saying several of its ministers are not suitable. This has raised fears in Lithuania that a dispute between Mr. Paksas and the Brazauskas government could disrupt plans for a May referendum on Lithuania's entry into the union, which is scheduled to take place next year.

The country is also due to join NATO next year.

Mr. Paksas has reportedly said he seeks constructive dialogue, not destruction.

Mr. Adamkus was widely expected to win re-election, after easily winning last month's first round election. But Mr. Paksas appears to have rallied support among those who have suffered economic hardships since the collapse of communism.

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