Grybauskaite wins unprecedented second term as Lithuania's president

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 May, 2014, 11:12pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 May, 2014, 11:12pm

Lithuania's "Iron Lady", Dalia Grybauskaite, has won an unprecedented second term in a presidential run-off held amid widespread apprehension over a resurgent Russia.

Many here who remember Soviet times see Grybauskaite - a karate black belt who is nicknamed for her Thatcher-esque toughness - as their best choice to steer the country through Europe's worst stand-off with Moscow since the cold war.

"No president has been elected twice in a row in Lithuania," she said as official results showed her capturing 58 per cent support in the run-off against leftist rival Zigmantas Balcytis.

"It will be a historic victory for all of you," she said, with more than 80 per cent of the vote counted.

Vilnius University analyst Tomas Janeliunas said: "Amid an increasing sense of insecurity and uncertainty, a majority of voters have a chosen reliable and tested person."

Russia's annexation of Crimea and sabre-rattling have sparked palpable fear in neighbouring Lithuania, a country of three million people.

Grybauskaite - a 58-year-old former EU budget chief who ran as an independent - focused primarily on national security in her bid for a second term. She welcomed the arrival of American troops last month as Nato stepped up its Baltic presence.

She also vowed to "take a gun myself to defend the country if that's what's needed for national security".

Russia "has chosen confrontation, aggression and a review of post-war peace structure, and we must react," she said ahead of the vote.

"Grybauskaite is the only one seriously prepared for the presidency," Vilnius civil servant Jurate Kiserauskes said.

Balcytis, who served as a leftist lawmaker in the outgoing European Parliament, took a more cautious approach on Russia, advocating dialogue.

"I expected a better result … but the choice and will of the Lithuanian people today is very clear - President Grybauskaite won these elections," he said.


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