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EU Budget Chief Becomes Lithuania's First Woman President

Official results show European Union budget chief Dalia Grybauskaite has won the presidential elections in her native Lithuania, with nearly 70 percent of the vote. But she has little time to celebrate as the Baltic nation faces a major economic crisis.

EU budget commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite declared victory in Lithuania's presidential poll, after official results showed she overwhelmingly defeated five other candidates by winning two-thirds of the ballots.

Election officials also said voter turnout was about 51 percent, just enough to avoid a second round.

Grybauskaite, a 53-year-old tough-talking former finance minister, decided to run for president as an independent candidate, as public anger about the Baltic nation's economic situation erupted into a riot outside parliament in January.

There has also been widespread frustration over allegations that several political leaders benefited from corruption.

Grybauskaite claimed she was chosen as the country's first female president because many struggling Lithuanians no longer trust mainstream politicians.

"I think that the political elite devaluated themselves and people do not trust local politics any more," she said. "And my own experience and my own results in my career show people that I can be trusted."

Yet, Grybauskaite, who holds a black belt in karate, now faces a political fight to help improve the economy, which is forecast to shrink by nearly 16 percent this year.

Unemployment in March stood at more than 15 percent, a dramatic jump from just more than four percent a year earlier.

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

She has criticized Lithuania's Social Democrats, who lost office in elections last year, for allegedly failing to take advantage of an economic boom and failing to prepare for a recession.

The ruling Conservatives say they are are supporting Grybauskaite's efforts. She has given broad approval to the Conservatives' austerity measures, but also warned them she will keep a critical eye on the government, which the president can dismiss.

Another crucial role of Lithuania's president will be to steer foreign policy, at a time of tense relations with Russia. Grybauskaite has already said she seeks to soften the strong language often directed towards Moscow.