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Lithuania Appears Headed For Presidential Runoff

Candidate Ingrida Simonyte, a former finance minister, casts her vote in the first round of Lithuania's presidential election on May 12.

Voters in Lithuania will head to the polls again in two weeks after the first round of presidential elections failed to produce a clear winner.

Preliminary official results from the May 12 election showed Ingrida Simonyte, a lawmaker and former finance minister, leading the nine-candidate field with 31.13 percent of the vote.

Gitanas Nauseda, a banker-turned-politician, was in second place with 30.95 percent.

Center-left Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis vowed to quit after failing to qualify for the second round.

Voter turnout was nearly 57 percent.

Front-Runners Cast Ballots In Lithuanian Presidential Election
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A candidate needed to secure more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a May 26 runoff.

The winner will succeed Dali Grybauskaite, who has served the maximum two 5-year terms as Lithuania's head of state since 2009, a Baltic country bordering Russia that is a member of the European Union and NATO.

Grybauskaite has been a strong critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and campaigned on stopping corruption and improving Lithuania's economy.

The election campaign was dominated by voter anger over economic inequality and corruption.

The Lithuanian president has limited powers, but is in charge of foreign policy and is the country’s representative at EU summits.

The president also appoints ministers, judges, the military chief, and central bank head, usually with the approval of parliament or the prime minister.

Lithuania, a close U.S. ally, faces tense relations with neighboring Russia.

It has arrested and charged several people in recent months accused of spying for Moscow.

NATO increased its assets in Central and Eastern Europe, including in Lithuania, following Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa