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Elections

Lithuanian President Grybauskaite claims second term after runoff

Dalia Grybauskaite has won re-election in Lithuania in a runoff against Social Democrat Zigmantas Balcytis. Preliminary results gave the center-right leader, sometimes likened to Margaret Thatcher, a comfortable lead.

Dalia Grybauskaite was emotional as she thanked her supporters for a "historic" victory on Sunday, saying "Lithuania has never elected a president for a second term before."

The 58-year-old, a former European Union commissioner, said she considered her re-election "a huge obligation and responsibility to Lithuania."

Preliminary results gave Grybauskaite 58.6 percent of the vote, compared to 41.4 percent for her center-left rival Zigmantas Balcytis. Early results pointed to 43.7 percent turnout among the country's 2.5 million registered voters. Lithuania held parallel polls to fill its 11 seats in the European Parliament on Sunday, as much of the bloc voted.

Grybauskaite appeared comfortably in pole position after the first round of voting earlier this month, but could not win enough ballots to prevent a runoff. The karate black belt, sometimes nicknamed "the Iron Lady" for her perceived similarities to Margaret Thatcher, ran as an independent with backing from center-right parties.

The economist and former finance minister also became Lithuania's first female president when elected to her first term in 2009. She recently advocated boosting NATO's troop presence in the country, ciriticizing Russia's annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.

msh/hc (AFP, AP)

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