Valdas Adamkus won Lithuania’s presidential runoff, held on January 4, by a margin of approximately one percent or less, against the left-of-center candidate, former prosecutor general Arturas Paulauskas. The turnout was 74 percent. The vote of Lithuanians abroad has not yet been counted and is expected to increase the margin for Adamkus. Paulauskas had been victorious in the first round of balloting, held on December 21, winning a plurality of 45 percent to 28 percent for Adamkus. That first-round margin, along with Paulauskas’s relatively young age (44), an endorsement from the highly popular incumbent president, Algirdas Brazauskas, and the support of ethnic minorities and the Women’s Party had been expected to carry Paulauskas to victory in the runoff.
However, the governing Fatherland Union/Conservatives and its Christian-Democratic allies supported Adamkus and ensured his victory. Parliament chairman and Fatherland Union leader Vytautas Landsbergis, who ran for president, obtained only 16 percent of the vote in the first round. This suggests that the electorate rejected Landsbergis as an individual, despite his credentials as the founding father of the reborn Lithuanian state; but it accepted the conservative program, despite Landsbergis’s relatively unappealing personality. The small Social-Democrat party also supported Adamkus after it had earlier split away from the left-of-center Democratic Labor Party, whose organizations campaigned for Paulauskas.
Adamkus, born in 1926, fled the Soviet occupation in 1944 with his family via Germany to the U.S. According to one version of his biography, he briefly fought the Soviet forces. Adamkus studied construction engineering in the U.S., served for many years as an official of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and was a prominent member of the Lithuanian-American community. Adamkus holds dual U.S. and Lithuania citizenship and reestablished permanent residence in his native country last year. (BNS, January 4-5)
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