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Lithuania: Paksas Surprise Victor In Presidential Elections

Vilnius, 6 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Rolandas Paksas (pictured) has won a surprise victory over incumbent Valdas Adamkus in Lithuania's presidential election. Electoral officials say provisional final results show Paksas, a former prime minister, winning almost 55 percent of Sunday's runoff vote, compared to 45 percent for Adamkus.

The turnout was about 51 percent of Lithuania's 2.7 million eligible voters.

The 46-year-old Paksas has pledged to raise Lithuanian living standards and to push forward the country's integration into NATO and the European Union. "Our strategic aims -- membership in the EU, NATO membership, the principles of good neighborly relations...(and) Lithuanian membership in international organizations -- will remain the priorities of our foreign policy."

The result is seen as something of a shock, as Adamkus had been widely expected to win re-election, in part because of his role in helping guide Lithuania to its recent invitations to join NATO and the EU.

Adamkus, who early this morning conceded the election, said he expected Paksas to continue the country's foreign-policy direction.