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Roundup: Lithuanians choose same president as five years ago

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

VILNIUS, May 26 (Xinhua) -- Lithuanians made the same choice in the presidential election of the Baltic country as five years ago, according to the result released by Central Electoral Commission on Monday.

Dalia Grybauskaite, Lithuania's "Iron Lady", defeated her social democratic opponent Zigmantas Balcytis in the presidential runoff by 57.87 percent of votes to 40.14 percent.

Grybauskaite led the first round of election by winning 45.92 percent of votes among the 7 candidates.

Balcytis followed her with 13.62 percent of votes.

Arturas Paulauskas of the Labor Party gathered 12.01 percent of votes.

None of the rest four contenders of presidency secured votes higher than 10 percent in the first round.

Grybauskaite's 45.92-percent overwhelmingly led her to the top, but was short of the 50-percent threshold needed for an outright victory.

She won a historical presidency as the first female in 2009, with some 68 percent of support in the first round.

In 2014, Lithuanians made the same choice in the presidential election, which made another historical event as no president succeeded in defending the position in Lithuania's history.

"No president has been elected twice in a row in Lithuania. It will be a historic victory for all of you," Grybauskaite said to the nation when partial count of votes predicted she would probably be reelected.

"Having in mind current situation around Ukraine, Grybauskaite is much better choice for Lithuania as she has clear and strong position, while Balcytis is rather unclear with his position on Ukraine," Arturas Jonkus, lecturer on Strategic Political Communication of Vilnius University, told Xinhua in an interview.

"Mr Balcytis and Ms Grybauskaite have quite similar positions on economics, energy, even social issues," said Tomas Janeliunas, a political scientist, professor of Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science.

"The main difference is that Ms. Grybauskaite has a stronger charisma, and she is more experienced on the international level and speaks more expressively, especially on security issues," Janeliunas added in an interview with Xinhua.

Ukraine's recent issues have aroused concerns among the people of Lithuania.

Grybauskaite stressed the cooperation with EU, NATO and U.S. under this condition.

Both NATO and U.S. have strengthened military presence in the Baltic country which has obvious shortage in military forces.

Grybauskaite also called for increase of defense budget from current some 0.8 percent to 2 percent of GDP.

Energy is another key issue influencing Lithuanians' daily life.

The once exporter of electricity with nuclear power plant has to be an importer after closing the power plant after joining EU.

Russia is the main energy supplier of the Baltic country.

Recent issues happening in Ukraine worsened the relations between Lithuania and Russia, as well as enhanced the demand of energy independence of the former-Soviet republic.

Grybauskaite went to South Korea early this year to name a carrier of Liquefied Natural Gas as "Independence" which is on the way to Klaipeda, a non-frozen port city of Lithuania.

The karate black belt, who was EU commissioner responsible for financial programming and budget, received lower votes than in 2009, though enough to make history.

Political analyst Alvydas Medalinskas describes the falling support for Grybauskaite as natural for a European democracy.

"Maybe, in some periods one or another Western politician can earn such ratings in a democratic state, but it cannot stay the same for a long time," Medalinskas said to the national television LRT.

Some 47.3 percent of the country's 2.55 million voters participated in the second round, compared with the 52.23-percent turnout in the first round held two weeks ago.

Re-elected as president, Grybauskaite said: "I accept your choice as a huge responsibility. I know it won't be easy, I know that challenges will be different every day. But I also know that you are with me. I hope for your help."

Grybauskaite will start the second term of presidency on July 12, according to CEC.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/140526/roundup-lithuanians-choose-same-president-five-years-ago