Sunday, 17 May 2009

Lithuania gets first woman head


Dalia Grybauskaite has been elected Lithuania's first female president, according to official results.
"I am grateful for the responsibility invested in me," said Ms Grybauskaite, the European Union budget commissioner.

With 96% of votes counted, she won 68% of the votes. Turnout at 51% was just above the threshold needed to give her an outright first round win.
Her nearest challenger, Social Democrat lawmaker Algirdas Butkevicius came a distant second with 12% of the vote.

Seven candidates contested the poll which was held amid widespread concern about the economic downturn in the Baltic state.

Under the Lithuanian constitution presidents have limited influence over economic policies.

Though as president Ms Grybauskaite, whose inauguration is set for 12 July, she will have the right to veto the budget.

The president's main power lies in foreign policy and here she has promised to be less confrontational, especially towards Russia.

'Level-headed'

President-elect Grybauskaite, the EU's tough-talking budget commissioner who has a black belt in karate, ran as an independent. Lithuania's crashing economy has dominated what little policy debate this presidential election has generated, the BBC's Adam Easton says.

Ms Grybauskaite has been critical of the way the economy has been handled by governments in the past.

"Our local political establishment is so boring for people, and they want to see some new faces," she told reporters after voting in the capital Vilnius.

"In the difficult times I can give my experience, my knowledge to my country," Ms Grybauskaite added.

She is widely seen as being a level-headed caretaker and has also avoided being tainted by domestic scandals, our correspondent says.

After enjoying years of impressive growth since it joined the European Union in 2004, Lithuania is experiencing double digit economic contraction and rising unemployment.

Frustration turned into violence in January when demonstrators smashed windows in the parliament building in Vilnius.
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